Australia’s betting culture is ready to corrupt the emerging esports scene

Although esports is still growing in Australia, especially during COVID-19, the industry is struggling to keep up with the cheats and match fixers.

For the past few years, esports as a global industry has increased to more than a billion dollars in value, with prize pools for the largest tournaments hitting eight figures. Of course, this means that match fixers and cheaters want a slice of the cash.

Within Australia in particular, the industry is still in its infancy, but the country is producing premier talent as seen in Justin “jks” Savage and Anathan “Ana” Pham, who compete in CS:GO and Dota 2 respectively.

Australian Esports
Image: Shutterstock

But while they enjoy international fame and a stable income supported by team salaries and consistent winnings, others are not in such a fortunate position. For those still in Australia, the local industry has been struggling with match fixing scandals.

A report from the ABC’s Background Briefing uncovered the extent of match fixing in Australian esports and how the system is struggling to keep up. The 35-minute report from Mario Christodoulou highlighted how the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) – which is the global investigator of cheating allegations in esports – is unable to handle the influx of cases.

By their own admission, ESIC receives around 100 allegations a day and that it can only investigate a fraction of them. Last year, six arrests were made by Victorian police over match fixing in CS:GO, which has resulted in five men being charged with corrupt conduct for betting purposes.

These scandals tend to hit low-tier tournaments, as seen with the self-betting scandal in Australian CS:GO. While it’s an Australian thing to bet on virtually everything, several players were caught out betting on themselves. Joshua “jhd” Hough-Devine was one of those players caught and subsequently banned.

Besides his statement of intent to use his time off to “get jacked at the gym”, jhd stated that he simply didn’t know the rules when he bet on himself. If he didn’t know the rules, then a concern emerges of the lack of an esports governing body similar to Korea’s KeSPA. ABC attempted to contact Valve and Riot Games, but received no response.

The CS:GO player revealed that he rejected a $2,000 offer to throw a match. jhd also expressed his frustrations with ESIC, stating that he has been trying to appeal his case for months. He has sent numerous communications to ESIC, but only received a single response. ESIC has stated that it has contacted jhd for his appeal options.

In the meantime, the former Rooster 2 member has launched an appeal campaign titled “Free the Cock“.

Fnatic Gucci
Image: Fnatic/Gucci

Even Australia’s most successful esports export wasn’t safe from these issues. With many championships over various games and sponsorships from the likes of Gucci and BMW, the team known as Fnatic can probably consider itself Australia’s greatest esports export. Founded in Australia but now based in London, the team was offered a sponsorship deal that stipulated a certain win/loss scenario.

The team rejected the offer and reported it to the police. In a statement to the ABC, the team stated that it has a zero-tolerance policy towards cheating set out in player contracts.