Esports Gambling Scandals: Lessons Learned from Match-Fixing Incidents
Esports is a booming industry that attracts millions of fans, players, and sponsors worldwide. However, with the rise of popularity and money involved, esports also faces the threat of match-fixing and betting fraud. In recent years, several high-profile cases have exposed the dark side of competitive gaming, where players, teams, or coaches have deliberately manipulated the outcome of matches for personal gain or under external pressure.
Match-fixing is not a new phenomenon in sports, but it is especially damaging for esports, which is still trying to establish its legitimacy and credibility as a professional and fair activity. Match-fixing undermines the integrity and reputation of esports, erodes the trust and confidence of fans and sponsors, and jeopardizes the future growth and development of the industry.
In this article, we will look at some of the most notorious esports gambling scandals that have rocked the scene, and what lessons can be learned from them to prevent or combat match-fixing in the future.
Forsaken’s aimbot at eXtremesland 2018
One of the most shocking and embarrassing incidents of cheating in esports history happened at the eXtremesland 2018 tournament in Shanghai, where Nikhil “Forsaken” Kumawat, a player from the Indian CS:GO team OpTic India, was caught using an aimbot software during a match against Revolution. An aimbot is a program that automatically aims and shoots at enemies, giving the user an unfair advantage over other players.
The cheating was detected by the tournament’s anti-cheat system, which alerted the admins to check Forsaken’s PC. As they approached him, Forsaken tried to delete the evidence by closing and removing the files, but he was too late. The admins found the aimbot program on his PC and disqualified him and his team from the tournament. The whole scene was captured on camera and went viral on social media.
Forsaken was later banned for five years by ESIC, the Esports Integrity Coalition, an organization that monitors and enforces ethical standards in esports. His team OpTic India was also disbanded by the organization, and his teammates claimed they had no knowledge of his cheating. Forsaken’s career was effectively ruined by his dishonest act, which also tarnished the reputation of Indian esports and CS:GO.
The lesson from this scandal is that cheating in esports is not worth it. Not only does it violate the rules and spirit of fair competition, but it also risks severe consequences for oneself and others. Cheating can ruin one’s reputation, career, and future opportunities in esports, as well as damage the image and credibility of one’s team, country, and game. Cheating also harms the fans who support and trust their favorite players and teams, and who expect to see a fair and exciting contest.
CS:GO coaches’ spectator bug abuse
Another CS:GO scandal that shook the esports world in 2020 was the revelation that at least 37 pro CS:GO coaches had exploited a bug that allowed them to spectate the map freely during matches and relay information to their team. The bug gave them an unfair advantage over their opponents, as they could see their positions, movements, strategies, and equipment.
The bug abuse was uncovered by a group of investigators led by Michal Slowinski, an esports referee who noticed something suspicious during a match between Hard Legion and AGO at ESL One: Road to Rio in May 2020. He found out that Hard Legion’s coach Aleksandr “MechanoGun” Bogatiryev had used the bug for almost the entire match, giving him access to information that he should not have had. Slowinski then reported his findings to ESIC, which launched a full investigation into the matter.
The investigation revealed that the bug had been present in CS:GO since 2016, and that many coaches had used it knowingly or unknowingly in various tournaments over the years. Some of the most prominent names involved were Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen from Heroic, Ricardo “dead” Sinigaglia from MIBR, Faruk “pita” Pita from Ninjas in Pyjamas, Aleksandr “zoneR” Bogatiryev from Hard Legion, Robert “RobbaN” Dahlström from FaZe Clan,
and Sergey “starix” Ischuk from Natus Vincere.
ESIC issued bans ranging from four months to three years for the coaches involved, depending on the severity and frequency of their bug abuse. The bans prevented them from communicating with their teams during online matches or being present at offline events. Some of the teams also faced penalties or forfeited their prize money or ranking points from the tournaments where they had used the bug.
The lesson from this scandal is that exploiting bugs or glitches in esports is unethical and unacceptable. Bugs or glitches are unintended errors or flaws in the game that can affect its performance or functionality. They are not part of the game’s design or mechanics, and they should not be used to gain an unfair advantage over other players. Exploiting bugs or glitches is a form of cheating that violates the rules and integrity of esports, and that can have serious repercussions for oneself and others. Exploiting bugs or glitches also harms the quality and credibility of esports, as it creates an uneven playing field and undermines the skill and strategy involved in the game.
Life’s match-fixing in StarCraft II
One of the most infamous and heartbreaking cases of match-fixing in esports history involved Lee “Life” Seung-Hyun, a StarCraft II prodigy who was widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Life had won multiple championships and accolades in his career, including the 2014 StarCraft II World Championship Series, where he became the youngest player ever to win the title at the age of 17.
However, in 2016, Life’s legacy was shattered when he was arrested and prosecuted for throwing two matches in 2015 at the behest of a gambling syndicate. He had received about $61,000 in exchange for losing on purpose to lower-ranked opponents at two online tournaments, the SBENU Starleague Season 1 and the KeSPA Cup Season 1. He had also introduced another player, Bung “Bbyong” Woo-Yong, to the same syndicate, who had also fixed a match for money.
Life pleaded guilty to his charges and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for three years, and fined about $61,000. He was also banned for life from South Korean esports by KeSPA, the Korea e-Sports Association, which oversees most of the professional gaming leagues in the country. Life’s career was effectively over, and his achievements were tainted by his scandal.
The lesson from this scandal is that match-fixing in esports is illegal and immoral. Match-fixing is the deliberate manipulation of the outcome of a match for personal gain or under external pressure. It is a form of fraud that involves breaking the law and betraying the trust of fans, sponsors, organizers, and fellow players. Match-fixing can have severe consequences for oneself and others, such as legal prosecution, financial loss, career termination, and reputation damage. Match-fixing also harms the integrity and reputation of esports, as it casts doubt on the legitimacy and fairness of the competition.
Esports gambling scandals are a serious threat to the industry that need to be prevented and combated. They undermine the integrity and reputation of esports, erode the trust and confidence of fans and sponsors, and jeopardize the future growth and development of the industry. They also harm the players and teams involved, who risk severe consequences for their actions.
The lessons learned from these scandals are that cheating, exploiting bugs or glitches, and match-fixing in esports are not worth it. They violate the rules and spirit of fair competition, and they can ruin one’s reputation, career, and future opportunities in esports. They also damage the image and credibility of one’s team, country, and game. They also harm the fans who support and trust their favorite players and teams, and who expect to see a fair and exciting contest.
Esports should be a clean and honest activity that showcases the skill and strategy of its players and teams. Esports should be a fun and entertaining spectacle that engages and inspires its fans and sponsors. Esports should be a professional and respectable industry that fosters its growth and development. To achieve these goals, esports needs to uphold its integrity and reputation by preventing
and combating gambling scandals.