Match-fixing has become an endemic, well-organized problem in professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a number of professional players have admitted to the Daily Dot. They allege that a ring of pros organizes one such operation, profiting off thrown matches by placing bets at a difficult-to-trace, third-party betting site.
The players, who requested to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals, stepped forward after an article published in the Daily Dot last week provided evidence of match-fixing at CS:GO’s highest level.
This included a screengrab of a conversation between LunatiK Esports player Shahzeb ‘ShahZaM’ Khan and an unnamed source in which Khan admitted he had insider knowledge that an Aug. 21 match between iBUYPOWER and NetcodeGuides was fixed. In that same conversation, Khan included a screengrab that apparently showed his profits from a bet placed on independent Counter-Strike betting site CS:GO Lounge.
Khan later claimed that he had either made a lucky guess or was joking with his friend. He did not, however, dispute the legitimacy of the screengrabs themselves.
According to players who spoke to the Daily Dot, however, the alleged match-fixing at the iBUYPOWER game was not a one-time occurrence. The players, who all play for top competitive Counter-Strike teams, say that they have frequently been approached to throw games in CEVO, the esports organization that runs one of the biggest online competitive leagues for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in North America.
The players all said they reported the alleged match-fixing to CEVO.
“When [they] messaged my team and asked us about it we pasted the information straight to an admin but nothing seems to have come from it,” one player told the Daily Dot.
A typical approach looks like this: Before a game starts, a fixer will reach out to a team that has favorable odds of winning and then encourage them to play poorly. If the team agrees, effectively deciding the outcome, bets on the underdog are placed on a series of dummy Steam accounts that are controlled by players within the group. The winnings are then transferred to these accounts and can be sold through the marketplace or other means to convert in-game items into real money.
Another player from one of the top-ranked teams in CEVO confirmed that this type of approach was common, and that there was a group of established players who would reach out to other teams and try and set up these results.
When we play matches that are heavily favoured towards us there are multiple people that will message us asking us to throw the game. We have been approached by more than one person who asks these kind of things. North American online Counter-Strike is the biggest joke and it is so annoying to just have to play in it.”
Players also pinned Khan as one of the alleged fixers.
“[Khan] is the guy who messages teams and asks them to throw” one player told us.
Another added: “Earlier this season he messaged multiple members of my team asking us to throw the game. He told us that we could make money through the skins betting.
No one on my team is willing to risk their reputation for a small time reward like that. The second he asked me I removed him from Steam and reported it to one of the CEVO admins.”.
Khan declined to comment on the allegations made in this article.
In a statement to Daily Dot last week, CEVO’s general manager confirmed it had received multiple complaints of match-fixing.
“With the rapid growth of CS:GO and esports in general, fans betting on the outcome of CEVO’s matches have become commonplace,” Chris Pipher wrote.
“And with that, allegations of ‘match fixing’ or ‘thrown games’ are becoming more prevalent. Recently, we’ve received a number of these complaints, specifically regarding a few matches that were broadcast on CEVO-TV last week.”
CEVO said an investigation into these allegations is still ongoing, adding that the company is holding internal discussions about future rules to ensure better clarity on rules limiting conflict of interests and possible penalties.
However, there is no effective way of monitoring secondary accounts that are held by players, and the most popular betting site, CS:GO Lounge, operate independently of any of the big leagues.
Photo by Dave Gough/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)