Match fixing and betting fraud are threatening the global esports industry which is forecast to increase audiences of 474m to 577m from 2021-22, and revenues of $1.08bn to $1.62bn from 2021-24.

Major Counter Strike Tournament investigation

The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) is investigating match fixing across the long running ESEA Premier Counter Strike Tournament in North America. “It’s a major on-going investigation involving several teams, 20-25 players and large volumes of betting data. Using Clue, we can manage the investigation, including exploring large data sets, connecting to other data sources, and managing our evidence files.” said Ian Smith, Integrity Commissioner, ESIC.

Ian Smith continued: “The core of our anti-corruption programme is a global, suspicious betting alert network of betting operators, data companies, national and state regulators, law enforcement and others with a vested interest in competitive integrity.

“Clue is now the central repository for all ESIC information that we can organise to fit our particular circumstances and manage our data effectively. We can also process evidence requests and generate prosecution files.”

“Clue is now the central repository for all ESIC information that we can organise to fit our particular circumstances and manage our data effectively. We can also process evidence requests and generate prosecution files.

“Prior to Clue we used word documents, spreadsheets and handwritten notes. The investigative side of our work was all in my head. We had vast amounts of data, including year-long betting activity reviews.

“Our information normally starts with an allegation of suspicious betting anywhere in the world from a betting operator that we share with the network to find out what they are seeing or whether they have an explanation for the betting activity to help keep their commercial and competitive integrity intact and to inform decisions about whether to take action on specific betting markets.

“Where an allegation warrants further investigation, we look at who’s playing in that team, we get match analysis reports, player data reports, social media evidence, statements, emails – it comes in from everywhere! Clue helps us to collate, organise, and assess the data and build patterns. We might find that a player was in a match 18 months ago where he was in a different team, but they were alleged to have cheated, and we can share data with other integrity units that we work with using Clue.“

Doping, safeguarding and security challenges

While match fixing and betting fraud are the primary threats that ESIC addresses, it is also tackling doping, safeguarding and security challenges.

Ian Smith commented: “ESIC launched an anti-doping function at the end of 2015 after a member of a leading team admitted team-wide drug taking in a televised interview. It is strongly alleged that in certain game communities, certain stimulants and drugs for conditions such as ADHD are heavily abused to increase focus and concentration.

“Safeguarding is a major concern. Our audience and players are younger than traditional sport. The potential for, and actual, abuse online needs to be addressed at an industry level, particularly considering gamers as well as esports athletes. There are also live events safety and security issues. To date there haven’t been any incidents, but as esports continues to grow rapidly it will attract bigger audiences, causing threat levels to rise. By combining esports, traditional sports, and law enforcement expertise we can counter these threats to create a safe and secure future for esports.”

“Safeguarding is a major concern. Our audience and players are younger than traditional sport. The potential for, and actual, abuse online needs to be addressed at an industry level.”

About ESIC

The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) is a not-for-profit members’ association established in 2015 to deal with integrity challenges, in particular match manipulation and betting fraud, to esports. There is no governing body for esports because games are owned, rather than governed, by publishing or developing companies, hence ESIC was set up as a voluntary regulator by key industry stakeholders. ESIC’s primary remit is to provide a common set of regulations to cover cheating offences, to investigate alleged breaches, and to prosecute cases where they have jurisdiction or produce cases for prosecuting authorities upon request.

Industry data sourced from Statista.