Five people were charged this Sunday with fixing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive matches, according to Victoria Police. If found guilty, they could face up to a decade in prison.
"It’s alleged that players were arranging to throw matches and subsequently placing bets on those matches", the Victoria Police Media Unit explained. Each of the suspects was charged with "use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes". One was also charged for the related "conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency". A conviction for either would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, according to the Australasian Legal Information Institute. These thrown matches generated up to $30,000 (roughly £15,500) in "winnings".
Police began their investigation after receiving a tip from a betting agency in March last year. Arrests were made in August, as Kotaku Australia reported at that time.
It's not CS:GO's first match-fixing scandal. Valve had to ban several players for match fixing behaviour in 2015, as our own Philippa Warr (RPS in peace) reported. It's interesting and reassuring to see real consequences this time. Though it's tempting to joke about taking games too seriously, these are large sums of money made by cheating other people, which can only ever be a bad thing for us all.
Despite their horrible name, esports remain huge, and are booming more than ever as more traditional sport and spectator events have shut down due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Formula 1 racing switched to a series of virtual races in F1 2019 in March and April. Some English Premier League (that's major league footed ball to you, ameri-friends) players took part in a a Fifa 20 tournament last month, with the final match broadcast on Sky Sports. Ice hockey and basketball got a similar treatment, and even the Grand National was a digitally simulated event this year, saving the lives of many bladeless mounts.
All this is well and good, but opportunists will naturally seek to exploit lawmakers' typically lethargic, clueless response to technological advancements. With bigger audiences than ever spread over endless legal jurisdictions, we can probably expect more of this in future.
The case also brings us back to concerns for the wellbeing of mostly young men who are heavily into games. As Australia's ABC outlet quoted Assistant Police Commisioner: "The sheer volume of young men involved in gambling, both in high school and in universities, is at epidemic proportions. What I'm not seeing is anyone doing anything particularly about that."
The men involved are expected to appear in court on September 15th.