eSports Contending With Match-Fixing Probes, Rules Violations

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Earlier this year, eSports was considered one of the saving graces of sports betting during the COVID-19 pandemic as online games including Counter Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends filled part of the void of offerings created when sporting events were canceled.

Fast forward to the fall, though, and it’s a much different picture as arguably the most visible eSports league — The ESL Pro League — has had to hand out multiple suspensions following a spectator bug glitch exploited by team coaches, and the eSports Integrity Commission is currently investigating allegations of match-fixing in the Mountain Dew Sports League.

What happened Part I: Mountain Dew League match-fixing

This investigation, which is ongoing, ranges back 18 months and covers multiple instances of possible match-fixing, to which the ESIC says it had “received suspicious bet alerts through our global integrity monitoring framework which led us to establish an investigation into potential match-fixing activity in the MDL tournament series administered by one of our members, ESEA (a subsidiary operation of ESL).”

Though the findings are expected to be released later this month, the ESIC did confirm last Thursday there were 15 ongoing investigations it considered “to be of significant concern to the industry.” The Mountain Dew League also utilizes the CS:GO platform, but it’s used more for amateurs as a way to break into the Pro League via promotion and relegation similar to European soccer.

The ESIC did not announce any definitive match-fixing findings but noted “we have been liaising with relevant anti-corruption supporters in order to ascertain the validity of allegations by way of evidence gathering, analysis, and assessment. We have also been using various investigative tools and contacts to link the bettors who placed the suspicious and unusual bets to the players and teams potentially involved in the match manipulation.”

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What happened Part II : A camera bug glitch

The second set of incidents, which was settled last week, occurred over a series of tournaments organized by ESL in recent months. The issue was the use of a static camera, which could be accessed by coaches through a series of steps. The static cam allowed the coach of a team to be a spectator anywhere on the map of a game during a round without anyone’s knowledge.

Thus, a coach could potentially stay in that position as an observer in an opposing team’s “spawn area,” which is not known to the other team, and the coach could then tell his players how to react based on that knowledge. Three coaches were deemed guilty of using the feature, and the ESL — after consultations with the ESIC — handed down suspensions varying from six months to two years depending on the amount of times the bug glitch was “knowingly misused” by the coaches in question.

The teams involved were forced to forfeit all ESL Tour points and prize monies won in the events in question, and the conditions that come with the suspensions are substantial. The banned coaches cannot:

  • Actively or passively communicate with the team starting 15 minutes prior to the official match start up until the end of the match
  • Be physically present around the team starting 15 minutes prior to the official match start up until the end of the match
  • Be on the game server during official matches
  • Be on the official match channel on the Discord server
  • Be part of the official map veto process or be in communication with the team during this process

In this instance, the ESIC conducted an investigation of past events and tournaments with tournament organizer DreamHack. The group also received help from software developer Valve and CS:GO referee Michal Slovinski before releasing its findings.

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