The eSports world has been rocked by another match-fixing scandal, underscoring the sports’ vulnerability to manipulation.
Early Monday, South Korean media began reporting that 12 individuals had been arrested in connection with a fixing scandal linked to Prime, a local StarCraft II team. The arrested figures include Prime coach Gerrard (Park Wae-Wik) and pro player YoDa (Choi Byeong-Heon), both of whom have been banned for life from competitive play in sanctioned eSports matches.
Others who found themselves under arrest include team member BBoongBBoong (Choi Jong-Hyuk) and former gamer and current eSports journalist Enough (Seong Jun-mo). Enough reportedly acted as a broker between players and two financial backers with ties to organized crime rings.
An investigation by the Changwon Regional Prosecutor’s Office and the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA) determined that a total of five matches in the Proleague and Global StarCraft II League (GSL) competitions this year were reportedly subject to tampering. KeSPA said they first got wind of the scandal via an anonymous tipster seeking a reward.
According to Team Liquid, BBoongBBoong reportedly received KRW 5m (US $4,400) to fix a ProLeague match in January. YoDa received KRW 30m for throwing two matches in February and April, then was allegedly blackmailed into throwing two more matches without compensation in May and June. Gerrard is said to have been paid KRW 10m for convincing the players to go rogue.
One of the financial backers is said to have earned KRW 41.5m betting on the fixed matches with online betting sites. Another backer reportedly came up empty after his broker failed to convince any team members to fix any matches.
However, the unsuccessful broker apparently didn’t have the heart to relay his failure to the backer, so the broker fed the backer bogus information, which the backer then sold on to over 50 members of an illegal gambling ring, all of whom were likely hopping mad when their bets rigged bets failed to pay off. (We’re starting to suspect this unwise broker tipped off the KeSPA as a way to put himself safely behind bars.)
KeSPA director Cho Man Soo issued a statement saying the Association would continue its “zero-compromise” stance on illegal betting. Earlier this month, the CEO of the Electronic Sports League celebrated his group’s deal with sports data specialists Sportradar as key to preserving the integrity of tournaments, which he called “the most important challenge’ facing the rapidly growing eSports industry.