In October, the Esports Integrity Commission, a body established in 2016 to investigate and prosecute "all forms of cheating in esports, including, but not limited to, match manipulation and doping," suspended seven Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pros (opens in new tab) for betting on matches—a big no-no in professional sports. (Just ask Pete Rose (opens in new tab).) It also warned that those sanctions came as "part of a wider investigation," and that "there are a high volume of investigations being coordinated by ESIC relating to match manipulation behaviour."
Today it announced that its ongoing investigation into ESEA events in Australia have resulted in another 35 suspensions of CS:GO (opens in new tab) competitors for terms ranging from one to five years, and that two of the players suspended in October have also had the terms of their suspensions extended.
"Over the past few years, ESIC has been investigating instances of betting behavior violations and suspected match manipulation on a global scale," the commission said in the suspension ruling (opens in new tab). "While this problem is not unique to ESEA events, the scope of this release will be to explore the result of investigations into such behavior in Australian CS:GO."
In order to ensure "consistent and proportional" punishments for offenders, ESIC came up with a "Sanctions Matrix" that breaks down like this:
- Level 1: Betting on matches - 12 months
- Level 2: Betting on own matches - 24 months
- Level 3: Aggravated betting (placing bets on more than ten matches) – 36 months
- Level 4: Betting against own team – 48 months
- Level 5: Aggravated betting against own team (placing bets against own team in more than ten matches) – 60 months
And these are the suspended players and the lengths of their suspensions:
- Jeremy "motion" Lloyd – 12 months
- Patrick "falcon" Romano De Sousa – 12 month
- Jonathan "Del" Sackesen – 12 months
- Grayson "vax" Uppington – 12 months
- Aiden "meta" Wiringi Jones – 12 months
- Kaito "minusthecoffee" Massey – 12 months
- John "jcg" Grima – 12 months
- Isaac "prodigy" Dahlan – 12 months
- Billy "beetee" Thomson – 12 months
- Kieren "Muzoona" Jackson-Clapper – 12 months
- Matthew "zilla" Zdilar – 12 months
- James "roflko" Lytras – 12 months
- Damon "damyo" Portelli – 12 months
- Jak "jtr" Robinson – 12 months
- Daniel "rekonz" Mort – 12 months
- Nicolas "lao" Gulloti – 12 months
- Marcus "mdk" Kyriazopoulos – 12 months
- Joel "pearss" Kurta – 12 months
- James "jamie" MacPahil – 12 months
- Ioan (Ionica) "bowie" Tuleasca – 12 months
- Joshua "joshaaye" Wilson – 12 months
- Ryan "kragz" Clarke – 12 months
- Stephen "sjanastasi" Anastasi – 12 months
- Damian "jd" Simonovic – 12 months
- Carlos "rackem" Jefferys – 12 months
- Joshua "jhd" Hough-Devine – 12 months
- Corey "netik (aka nettik)" Browne – 12 months
- Roman "matr1kz" Santos – 24 months
- Cailain "caily" Lovegrove – 24 months
- Akram "adk" Smida – 24 months
- Andy "Noobster" Zhang – 36 months
- Jayden "foggers" Graham – 48 months
- Sam "tham" Mitchell – 48 months
- Mate "habbo hotel" Poduje – 48 months
- Samuel "samy" Jarvis – 48 months
- Daniel "deezy" Zhang – 48 months
- John "wots" Zhu – 48 months
- Daryl "mayker" May – 48 months
- Matthew "jam" Castro – 60 months
- Alvin "Gravins" Changgra – 60 months
- Wilson "willyks" Sugianto – 60 months
The list includes amended sanctions against two of the players who were suspended for a year in October: Akram "adk" Smida (previously playing as "akram") has had his suspension extended to two years, while Daryl "mayker" May will now sit for four years. The suspensions will apply across all ESIC member organizations, including ESL, DreamHack, WePlay, BLAST, LVP, Nodwin, Eden, Relog, UCC, Allied, Kronoverse, Estars and 247 Leagues, and ESIC requested that non-member tournaments honor the ruling as well.
The commission specified that the suspensions arise strictly from betting on matches in ESIC member events and do not address potential allegations of match fixing, although it added that "the strong possibility of this in a number of cases is still under investigation by both ESIC and law enforcement."
It also stated that it detected "collusive behavior by close associates" of the suspended players, specifically that there were several instances where they placed bets identical to those placed by the players themselves. Because these people are not CS:GO players, they do not fall within ESIC's jurisdiction, and so it has "referred their behaviour to law enforcement for investigation as being potentially in breach of criminal law" instead.
Sanctions issued in today’s release are not for matching-fixing. However, ESIC is of the view that there is a high possibility that it will issue match-fixing charges arising from the ongoing investigations, potentially including against players sanctioned today. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/PU7bt5IedlJanuary 22, 2021
It's a big, sweeping ban, and the threat of law enforcement involvement is no doubt unnerving for those involved, especially since the amounts of money involved were likely not all that great. These are not top-tier pros battling it out at The Majors, after all. But the announcement also includes a reminder of ESIC's rules against betting on matches, and more pointedly, why it pursues offenders so vigorously:
Without a unified understanding of the implications of inappropriate betting behaviour and observance of anti-corruption mechanisms (such as the Anti-Corruption Code), esports runs the risk of facilitating attractive fraud opportunities for bad actors. Accordingly, it is important that professional players understand that breaches of ESIC’s Anti-Corruption Code are a serious concern.
It is crucially important that professional players (at the very least) abstain from placing bets on the game from which they earn an income in order to preserve the integrity of the esports landscape internationally and mitigate the potential for bad actors to take advantage of our sport.
While this investigation is limited to professional CS:GO events in Australia, ESIC said that it is also conducting investigations into other CS:GO leagues in North America and Europe, "and a significant number of other leagues in multiple game titles."