Six people were arrested in Australia for allegedly losing matches of the popular online game Counter Strike: Global Offensive on purpose, in what is the country’s first police investigation into esports match-fixing. It’s alleged that the men—four from Victoria, two from Western Australia, and all aged between 19 and 22 years old—arranged to throw their own matches in an online tournament and subsequently placed bets on those matches, The Guardian reports.
They now face up to 10 years in prison on charges of engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome, and the use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes.
Detectives from Victoria Police’s Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit, along with detectives from the Organised Crime Intelligence Unit, executed warrants at a number of properties last Wednesday in relation to a months-long investigation into suspicious betting activity relating to an esports league. The six gamers were arrested and interviewed in relation to the offences, and have since been released pending further enquiries.
It’s believed that at least five matches were impacted and over 20 bets were put on the matches by Australian punters, according to police media, but the value of those bets was not disclosed. Authorities launched an investigation into the behaviour after receiving a tip-off from a betting agency in March.
Victoria Police assistant commissioner Neil Paterson said that while this investigation was the first of its kind that the state police force have dealt with, it’s important to crack down on illegal betting rings and criminal activities that come about as a result of the booming esports scene.
“Esports is really an emerging sporting industry and with that will come the demand for betting availability on the outcomes of tournaments and matches,” he said. “It’s important that police and other agencies within the law enforcement, gaming, and betting industries continue to work together to target any suspicious activity.
“These warrants also highlight that police will take any reports of suspicious or criminal activity within esports seriously, and we encourage anyone with information to come forward.”
The investigation is ongoing.
Earlier this year Reuters reported that booming revenues from advertising, sponsorship, and media rights to competitive video gaming would see global esports revenues hit $1.1 billion in 2019—an increase of 27 percent since last year. Market researcher Ibis World projected, however, that the Australian esports industry—which does not make money from lucrative sponsorship deals, ticketing, broadcast revenue, and player endorsements in the same way as overseas markets—will account for just $20 million of that, according to Fairfax.