The battle against match-fixing in esports

LOOT.BET provides insight into how betting sites approach match-fixing.


This article is proudly sponsored by LOOT.BET

Match-fixing is a problem that occurs across all areas of competitions, from soccer to StarCraft. There is no space safe from someone trying to make a quick buck by ensuring a desired result during a game.

And while high-profile cases of match-fixing date back as far as the early 20th century, esports is a newer battleground that is still evolving, and because of that, is more vulnerable than most other scenes.

Unfortunately, the infamous Solo, iBUYPOWER, and Life cases are just a few of the numerous incidents taking place in esports. According to the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC), the watchdog organization in esports, it received 74 suspicious betting alerts that might indicate rigged games in 2018. That’s almost double the number of alerts the ESIC received in 2017, with most of those cases relating to Dota 2.

Some esports betting sites, like LOOT.BET, take match-fixing very seriously and are supporters of the ESIC’s betting alert network. When a bookmaker that is part of the network detects a suspicious betting activity related to a match, it notifies the organization. The ESIC will then poll other partner bookmakers to see if similar strange activity has happened on their servers, in order to collect as much information as possible. The gathered information can then be used in investigations if there is enough data to go off of.

LOOT.BET has provided the key guidelines that the company uses when analyzing suspicious betting activity should something look off about any numbers. These factors apply to nearly every bookmaker that works against match-fixing, in esports or not, and are crucial to how the ESIC investigates suspicious games.

An abnormally large total volume of bets placed on a match at a specific rank, especially on the outsider’s victory.

This one is a classic. Let’s say you’re the house in Las Vegas, and you typically take about $50,000 of bets, in total, on a regular boxing match. Then, one night, you start to get a series of massive bets in a row on a match of the same rank, all hedging on the outsider and making as much as $300,000 combined. Your ears would start to prick up, right?

The same principle applies in esports, and LOOT.BET say they get alerted when they see abnormal amounts of money get dropped on, let’s say, a local tier-four Dota 2 game, where most of the competitors, including the favorites, are unknown. Why would people risk so much money on an event with such a high degree of randomness, especially betting on the underdog?

An abnormally large total volume of bets placed on a market that is generally unpopular among bettors.

The most common bet among bettors will come on the outcome of a match, whether that be on a single map or an entire series. And, if a bookmaker accepts a large amount of money on a team’s victory in one specific round or for something like the team to first score 10 kills in Dota 2, or any other very specific market, this is another alarm bell. 

This is completely based on the fact that single rounds can be heavily impacted by hotstreaks and random aspects, while a series is more likely to favor the more experienced or overall better team. It often looks suspicious as well since such outcomes are hard to predict in general when it comes to kills compared to just the outcome. 

‘Insane’ bets or series of bets placed from a new account.

I feel like even I could catch this one, with or without the ESIC’s help. Let’s say you’re running a gambling site, and someone registers for a new account, immediately drops a ton of money on the hopeless underdog or a very specific outcome, and disappears immediately afterwards. Did you just encounter an anonymous esports betting savant? Or did he have some inside match-fixing knowledge? More often than not, it’s the latter.

Suspicious activity can just as easily be connected to an established account, however. LOOT.BET reported a case to the ESIC regarding a regular user who had been active for more than a year placing only small bets on various events. One day, he suddenly made a large deposit right before a game that, as is assumed, has been rigged, and placed a series of big bets on the outsider’s victory.

Following the match, he immediately put the money to withdraw. Which prompted further analysis because the history of a person who bets fairly for a long period of time partaking in such behavior is very uncharacteristic and suspicious. 

Bets, especially big ones, on a game that have been placed by a relative or friend of a player participating in that game – naturally, against that player’s victory.

This is more common than you would think, as family members, friends, and even some players themselves will place bets against the team they have relations to. LOOT.BET even adds that there have been instances where a player bets against himself/herself from an account that has been registered using his/her real name and assets. That violates not only the site’s Terms of Service, but also nearly every competitive organization’s code of conduct, too.

Unreasonable changes in numerous bookmakers’ betting lines for a specific game.

This is more of a general concept, but if the betting lines for a specific game or match swing wildly on for various bookmakers, there is usually a cause for more analysis just to make sure nothing odd is happening behind the scenes. 

As esports continue to grow and become a more widely recognized area of competition and betting, it is expected that more betting operators and other esports companies and organizations will partner with the ESIC and its current members to fight all kinds of fraud in esports. 

And as more organizations become acutely aware of the potential harm fraud and dirty-play can bring to the scene, the existing methods and tools for resisting match-fixing, including the ESIC’s betting alert network will continue improving.