Esports won’t escape match-fixing: Integrity commissioner

While the rapid growth of competitive video gaming has caught the eye of the operators all over the world, attention needs to be placed on the threat of match-fixing and corruption, says Ian Smith, head of the eSports Integrity Coalition (ESIC).

In an interview with ABC, the integrity commissioner warned of the parallels between eSports and cricket in the 90s.

When the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal came to light in 2000, it changed the cricketing world forever.

“At that time when the Cronje case broke there was nobody dealing with anti-corruption codes,” said Ian Smith, then a lawyer acting for the Professional Cricketers’ Association in England.

“They’ve only reformed when faced with calamity and I hope eSports has learned from that.”

Esports has been gaining traction around the world. Total prize pool for Valve Corporation Dota 2, one of the industry’s most popular competitive esports games – hit a total of $60 million in 2015.

The market for esports betting has seen a similar growth spurt, with regulated gambling on eSports estimated to grow to $20 billion annually by 2020.

“You throw in the black and grey markets, [and] we’re looking at $200 billion to $300 billion bet on eSports,” said Smith.

The staggering numbers are a breeding ground for corruption and match-fixing, which Smith believes is just as much of a threat in eSports as any other sport.

“There’s a natural reluctance to believe that their community might be engaged in anything nefarious at all because the vast majority of the eSports community is run by gamers for gamers,” Smith said.

“So there’s this belief that because they’re honourable people with integrity that every gamer is also an honourable person with integrity.”

Smith said the only way to crack the perception was through evidence of match-fixing.

“Without destroying the reputations of people or tournaments of matches, we had to demonstrate that in fact match-fixing is relatively a problem and certainly a problem that is going to get worse in eSports unless we do something about it,” he said.

Ultimately, ESIC is hoping all the leagues will sign up to its code of conduct, not just the big organizations.