Young professional players tempted by gamblers to throw games
That scourge of all sports – corruption – has perhaps predictably raised its ugly head in the nascent but lucrative eSports business, with high profile prosecutions in South Korea underlining a determination in the business to combat the evil.
The publication Kotaku notes that a report on the StarCraft2 match-fixing scandal has just been released by state prosecutors following the conviction of a top player, Lee "Life" Seung Hyun, for match-fixing along with another professional player, Bung "Bbyong" Woo Yong.
Apparently Hyun as the captain of the TeamLiquid outfit was offered $60,000 – around seven times as much cash for throwing two games as he would have made had he won the entire tournament.
Given his exalted status in the industry and among fans his conviction caused widespread disappointment, but illustrated the temptations young players can be subjected to by gamblers.
Kotaku reports that Hyun was paid about $30,000 per thrown match, but the gambler behind it was putting up about $44,000 in online bets at 1.3-1.5 odds, which meant he would have cleared about $56,000 a game.
The prosecutor's report reveals that in total, eight individuals were arrested and charged, including some of the financial backers behind the scheme and their employees, as well as the brokers who helped arrange the deals.
Hyun apparently received a suspended prison sentence, encouraging him to eschew similar offers in the future.
But that might not be the end of all his troubles, if eSports organisations decide that he should be banned from playing or lose his many titles.
The Prosecution Service's report observes that these match-fixing conspiracies follow a clear and established pattern.
"The crimes were perpetrated with clear division of roles: Financial backers to put up the compensation for match-fixing; brokers to solicit the match-fixing and transfer the funds; and an employee in charge of receiving gambling funds and placing bets on internet gambling sites," it explains.
The danger is that the cancer of corruption could spread to major tournaments and matches, where young – sometimes very young – professional players could be exposed to the temptation of large sums of money.
Hyun was just 15 years old when his prodigious talent was rewarded with his first championship title, and he is just 19 now and at the top of the Asian game.
As Kotaku points out, it is troubling how easily match-fixers were able to access these players, and influence them without anyone else becoming aware there might be a problem.
Another problem is the prize structure in many Korean tournaments, which is heavily weighted to give the winners a disproportionally high pay-out – up to $36,000 in some cases, where the runners-up might receive $9,600 and quarter finalists only $2,200 for an entire season. That could persuade lower pay levels to take bribes.
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