- I. Introduction
- II. Background
- III. Criminal Law Sentencing Philosophy Applied to Match-Fixing
- IV. Applying the Philosophy to the Law
- V. Conclusion
Worries over competitive integrity and match-fixing in esports have surfaced again with the recent approval of legal esports betting by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB). The recent Chinese Dota 2 match-fixing scandal has magnified these worries. The Chinese Dota 2 Professional Association (CDA) recently permanently banned Chinese Dota 2 team, Newbee, for allegations of match-fixing. The evidence has been sent to Valve, the developer for Dota 2, for consideration of a worldwide ban on the organization. This recent case is just one among many match-fixing scandals that have plagued the esports industry. Many people have discussed what leagues, developers, and even the government should do with regard to legalized gambling, but some of their ideas stop at regulating esports gambling. As an example, Bryce Blum, an esports industry leading attorney, wrote a piece in ESPN that did not mention the words “match-fixing” or “cheating” once. In contrast, some scholars are critical of the lax nature of U.S. law when it comes to match-fixing in traditional sports. This Comment takes the position that developers and governments must take a stronger stance against match-fixing in esports through increasing punishments and fines levied against wrongdoers.
The first section of this Comment will lay out the background of esports and the relevant match-fixing incidents in esports history. Esports is best summarized as the video game version of any professional sport one can imagine. The second section will cover some theories applied to criminal sentencing that are taught in law schools around the country. Of these theories, this Comment will highlight deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and retribution, and will also discuss tortious liability as an additional factor that should be considered in sentencing philosophy. The third section will analyze these factors and apply them to two different responses by countries and game developers to match-fixing incidents. The analysis will demonstrate why harsher sentencing is superior to more lax regulations and suggest additional modifications to reach an ideal sentencing structure to combat match-fixing. The conclusion will set out to provide guidance for the esports industry to adopt the preferred solution.
A. What Is Esports?
Esports is the world of competitive and organized video games, similar to traditional professional sports. Esports can be described as a catch-all term just as traditional sports encompasses football, basketball, tennis, and baseball, to name a few. Comparatively, esports encompasses competitive video games, such as StarCraft, League of Legends, Counter Strike, and Dota 2. Because esports refers to any video game played at a professional and competitive level, theoretically any video game can become an esport. This Comment will primarily focus on the aforementioned esports.
Esports history began very quietly, when the first few esports tournaments were held in the 1980s by companies like Atari for games such as Space Invaders. It wasn’t until 1996 when id Software developed Quake, a first-person shooter (FPS) multiplayer game, that esports began to take a foothold in global culture. Alongside Quake, games such as StarCraft and Counter Strike helped launch esports into the mainstream, with StarCraft becoming the de facto national sport of South Korea.
Once esports reached the mainstream spotlight, sponsors began taking notice of the industry and quickly signing deals involving advertising, sponsorships, media rights, and merchandising. Players have opportunities to win millions of dollars in tournaments and the potential to achieve financial stability with lucrative contracts for guaranteed money. But while the industry continues to explode, so too does the threat of nefarious individuals and organizations who seek to illegally profit from the popularity of esports.
B. Match-Fixing Incidents in Esports
Dictionaries define match-fixing as the dishonest activity to make sure that one team wins a particular sports match. The act of establishing a predetermined outcome, either by intentionally losing or by colluding with the opponent to determine who will win the match, is considered match-fixing. 18 U.S.C. § 224(a) prohibits bribery that seeks to influence the results of a match. Match-fixing falls under § 224 if there is a financial incentive provided to the fixer. Naturally, players would probably not match-fix without an incentive.
The first major esports scandal that rocked the industry was the 2010 StarCraft: Brood War Scandal, where eleven players were implicated for match-fixing. Here, players had made agreements with gambling brokers to intentionally lose matches while others would place bets against them, thus predetermining the result of the match and bets. Ultimately, ten of the eleven players were sentenced to time in prison or to pay fines. Many point to this event as what brought down StarCraft: Brood War from the peak of its popularity. Hite SPARKYZ, one of the many teams that competed in the team Proleague format, had many players involved in the scandal and quickly merged with another team. Several other teams lost sponsors in the following years as StarCraft quietly fell from its throne as the top esport. The two premier individual tournaments, the MBCGame StarCraft League and OnGameNet Starleague, ended in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
In 2014, iBUYPOWER’s (IBP) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team was caught for match-fixing after placing thousands of dollars on skins bets against itself in its match against NetcodeGuides. The scandal is blamed for setting the North American CS:GO scene back many years, as IBP’s roster consisted of top-tier talent. North American CS:GO would not win any major tournaments until the 2018 ELEAGUE Boston Major, four years after the IBP scandal.
In 2015, StarCraft 2 suffered a heavy blow when Life, arguably the best Zerg player during the Heart of the Swarm expansion in early 2013, and other players were caught match-fixing. Life was arrested, given an eighteen-month prison sentence that was suspended for three years, and fined 70 million South Korean won (approximately $61,000).
In 2019, the Chinese League of Legends Pro League (LPL) experienced match-fixing when star player, Condi, was banned for eighteen months for match-fixing. Condi alleged that he was blackmailed into match-fixing by his manager and turned himself in. The LPL banned the manager permanently. Condi previously reached third and fourth at the 2017 Worlds on Team World Elite.
In 2020, Newbee was implicated for match-fixing in China. Newbee’s accomplishments include winning the prestigious “The International” (TI) in 2014 and coming in second in 2017. Months after the incident, Valve permanently banned Newbee from competing in its Dota 2 events. WeiYan, another LPL player, was also banned by the LPL for two years and Rogue Warriors, WeiYan’s team, was fined about $420,000.
Reviewing the various match-fixing incidents, different game developers and governing bodies appear to have different punishments for fixers. But the punishments are inconsistent between both jurisdictions and companies. This Comment will now examine the philosophy behind the varying punishments.
III. Criminal Law Sentencing Philosophy Applied to Match-Fixing
Judges and legislators apply four main factors when determining the appropriate length for sentences of various crimes: (1) Deterrence; (2) Incapacitation; (3) Rehabilitation; and (4) Retribution or Justice. Judges balance each of these factors to determine how severe the punishment should be for a lawbreaker. This section draws upon scholarship—particularly from David Crump, who teaches Criminal Law at the University of Houston Law Center—to guide the legal definitions of these factors and analyze how each factor applies to esports match-fixing. The conclusion recommends harsher criminal penalties because of the potential of irreparable harm to the industry. Further, tortious liability will be examined as another contributing factor for how match-fixing impacts the economic viability of esports.
In criminal law, deterrence is designed to create incentives that motivate would-be offenders not to engage in crime. There are two types of deterrence: specific and general. Specific deterrence prevents the punished offender from committing future offenses while general deterrence influences others to avoid committing crimes due to the offender’s sentence. Because specific deterrence is rarely relevant in match-fixing, as players who match-fix will almost never be able to match-fix again due to leagues and developers permanently banning them from participating in their games, it will not be analyzed in detail. But the applicability of general deterrence is important to dissuade current and future esports players from match-fixing. This Comment will quickly summarize general deterrence before analyzing potential ways for developers and governments to create better forms of deterrence.
The concept of general deterrence can be viewed almost like a cat and mouse game between law authorities and potential wrongdoers in the sense that laws are created to punish while citizens may attempt punishment avoidance. Thus, the harshness of the punishment created by law enforcement serves as a disincentive to potential offenders. It is important to view deterrence through the lens of incentives because the idea of incentivizing citizens to aspire towards desirable behavior is more akin to the formation of contracts. In short, “the more severe the consequence for law-breaking, the less likely an individual is to commit a crime.” In Tomlinson’s critique of deterrence, she highlights how a would-be offender’s likeliness of committing an offense takes into account the probability of apprehension and the threats of sanction. Probability of apprehension ties directly into the proposed changes that some legal scholars have mentioned. Therefore, deterrence operates both through the severity of the punishment and the likelihood of apprehension.
As mentioned in Blum’s article discussing a potential move to embrace esports gambling, cooperation with gambling agencies in the various states could lead to better regulation and oversight over the gambling process that would allow officials to monitor and apprehend wrongdoers. He mentions the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) method for implementing mandatory monitoring and reporting for unusual betting, and an integrity fee that would go to the operators to invest in compliance and enforcement actions. Blum concludes by endorsing the NBA’s model as a benchmark for how the esports industry should deal with gambling. Blum’s suggestions could solve Tomlinson’s probability-of-apprehension issue where match-fixing might be occurring as a result of lack of proper enforcement. If players know that there is a larger governing body that is properly qualified and has the tools to oversee potential illegal gambling acts, then they might be more deterred from match-fixing. As it currently stands, without proper oversight and resources necessary to combat against match-fixing, esports cannot deal with manipulation alone.
Deterrence ultimately favors harsher sentences, as players are disincentivized to match-fix when other match-fixers receive harsh punishments such as hefty fines and sentences. Sending a match-fixer to prison will cause other potential match-fixers to reconsider whether the potential punishment is worth the benefit. Strong deterrence would make it more difficult for illegal gamblers to convince players to participate or would force them to increase the prize payout and create greater incentives for the player to participate. It is possible that match-fixing organizers simply do not have enough money to bribe players with if the price of match-fixing increases. Players doing a cost–benefit analysis to determine if match-fixing is worthwhile will be more likely to be risk-averse.
Crump refers to this cost–benefit analysis as the equation “C x S > R” where C is the probability of punishment, S is the severity, and R is the reward. As it stands, the potential reward for match-fixing can be quite high if one assumes the history of fines given to match-fixers is comparative. Further, the rampant match-fixing in esports compared to its counterparts in traditional sports implies that the deterrence side is still too low in Crump’s equation. To establish adequate deterrence, the law should either establish a minimum sentencing time or a baseline fine for match-fixing rather than the maximum sentencing time of five years under 18 U.S.C. § 224(a). The five-year maximum creates a relatively weak severity under Crump’s equation, thus suggesting additional deterrence is needed.
But this Comment suggests that the equation could be altered, because the reward half of the equation does not take into account potential damages that could be inflicted. Thus, altering Crump’s equation might look something like this:
In this formulation, D is the damages caused by the crime. If damages accumulate rapidly, then to continue to fit under the deterrence model to suppress crime, either probability of the punishment, severity, or both must be increased tremendously. The equation needs the damages portion to account for the potential of tremendous loss to game developers and the esports industry as a whole, as seen from the downfall of StarCraft and the North American CS:GO scene.
But some, like Esports Integrity Commission’s (ESIC) commissioner, Ian Smith, argue that that the proposed increases in punishments might be excessive. Smith’s argument that teenagers should not be permanently banned is in part because of the time served, and also that the youth of the match-fixers should be taken into account. But Smith’s argument falters against the point of general deterrence, where people obtain indirect experience with punishments by seeing others punished. Thus, the teenagers who match-fixed knew about the potential punishments and still committed the crime. In this situation, the law is clear, and the match-fixers should be punished.
Incapacitation is designed to restrain dangerous or repeat offenders so that they cannot commit crimes even if they are not deterred. Players caught match-fixing generally are banned and cannot match-fix as a player anymore even absent criminal punishment. In esports, however, players banned from one game have sometimes returned to esports through another game, where they might match-fix again. To combat this, developers and tournament organizers could agree that, if one developer bans a player for match-fixing in one game, all other developers will also ban the player from their games. A unified and centralized esports organization that oversees all games of major esports could create a blacklist to prevent a match-fixer from participating in any esport. Overall, incapacitation does not weigh heavily towards either a more lenient or more severe punishment, as banning players from the game generally prevents them from repeat offenses. As the esports industry continues to grow and flourish, we might see further development in this area.
Rehabilitation is designed to reform the offender and channel the offender into lawful pursuits. Gambling addictions are not uncommon in the esports industry, as the existence of “loot boxes” in many games is linked to the development of addictions in adult populations. “Skin betting” in CS:GO, which is where players use in-game virtual cosmetics as a form of currency to bet on CS:GO matches, was at the center of the CS:GO Lotto scandal. Given that skins are worth enormous sums of money and the skin market is worth about $50 billion, it is not surprising that a team would match-fix to gain better skins.
Gambling treatment programs have been a proposed method of rehabilitating match-fixers. The Korean government punished the players involved in the 2010 scandal by assigning the more severe violators with forty-hour gambling-treatment programs. In contrast, the United States did not charge Tim Donaghy with any gambling-treatment program in his trial for rigging NBA games. Perhaps Donaghy should have gone to a treatment program, considering he now operates a website where he sells betting advice. Naturally, not every player who engages in match-fixing has a gambling addiction; sometimes players are desperate for a quick method to earn money. Courts should look to the evidence to determine the severity of a player’s match-fixing, such as duration and frequency of match-fixing, to determine if gambling treatment is suitable for a player. Overall, rehabilitation favors reducing punishments and finding alternatives to allow individuals to rehabilitate and correct their behavior in a less intrusive manner. However, because rehabilitation is not always necessary, each case of match-fixing should be examined accordingly, and rehabilitation should not exist as the only solution to match-fixing.
D. Retribution or Justice
Retribution or justice has been popularized as designed “to impose a sentence that corresponds to the offender’s just deserts.” But some scholars argue that retribution is not created to satisfy the notion of “an eye for an eye.” To analyze retribution, we must first draw the connection that ultimately, retribution is the centerpiece for punishment. Society’s determination of the adequate level of punishment is reflected in our political system, where the legislative body creates laws to judge what society’s agreed-upon morals ought to be. Citizens must accept these laws created by our political government with guidance from the people. Thus, the punishment for a crime is more geared towards people who unfairly usurp liberty to pursue their own interests in a selfish manner. Further, the crime causes the criminal to gain an unfair advantage over everyone else who chooses to remain within the legal boundaries. Bradley’s reasoning and definition of retribution is convincing.
Cheating and match-fixing in esports fall squarely within the view that criminals pursue their own interests to gain an advantage over law-abiding citizens. When a player cheats, either through the installation of aim assist or other methods, they are gaining an unfair advantage over the system in some fashion that non-cheaters do not have. Where Forsaken’s aim assist would be like using a corked bat or having pine tar on a bat handle to make hitting the ball easier, Azubu Frost’s screen-peeking would be the equivalent of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in the 2017 season. Each incident involved a way for the parties to, in Bradley’s words, “unfairly usurp liberty to pursue [their] own interests and plans in a manner contrary to the common boundaries delineated by the law.”
Match-fixing deals with the same concepts that Bradley laid out. For example, in the StarCraft 2009–2010 incident, players had predetermined the match result ahead of time in exchange for money from bettors. However, the scope of the crime cannot be said to just be limited to one rigged match. We must consider the waterfall effects that one fixed match could have on the entire industry. Teams lost sponsorships, and players were left teamless and confused in the aftermath of the 2009–2010 StarCraft scandal. Even commentators were out of jobs when sponsors pulled out of sponsoring tournaments. Match-fixing destroys careers and livelihoods, and has potential to erode an industry built off decades of passion and dedication in one fell swoop. Thus, revisiting the discussion from deterrence, it is necessary to amend the economic equation to factor in the secondhand impacts of the crime committed. Therefore, retribution heavily weighs in favor of harsh penalties to account for damages to the industry.
E. Tort Liability and the Conversion to Sentencing
One aspect of the consequences of match-fixing that has been discussed in this Comment is the potential fiscal impact on the industry. Tort damages encompass fiscal impact to individuals, like hospital bills or emotional distress damages. But because a match-fixer will most likely not have the ability to pay the potential damages as a result of match-fixing, this section attempts to quantify the potential tort damages into an argument to increase sentencing.
With StarCraft, we saw the 2009–2010 match-fixing scandal cause several sponsors to drop out of the team leagues and eventually the end of individual leagues as well. The industry simply lacks the necessary financial backing to survive without media rights and sponsorship agreements. In traditional sports, committee members have spoken out about the tarnished reputation that sports receive as a result of match-fixing that inevitably leads to dropped sponsorships and bad publicity. But it is incredibly difficult to accurately judge the financial impact that match-fixing has on esports because there are no concrete numbers to show whether viewership declines as a result of or despite match-fixing scandals. Further, using baseball as an example, traditional sports have seen various scandals, like doping, sign-stealing, and even match-fixing, but continue to be alive and well.
Restitution of the money that a match-fixer earns, and additional money that the gambling organizations earn, is also a potential source of tort liability. In the 2007 NBA match-fixing scandal with referee Tim Donaghy, the NBA sought restitution damages for compensation and benefits, attorneys’ fees, and internal investigation expenses under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (MVRA). The Court held that the NBA was only entitled to the compensation paid to Donaghy for the 2006–2007 NBA season, as well as attorneys’ fees and game film review. (The NBA never attempted to obtain compensation for potentially lost sponsorships or media rights.) Under Donaghy and the MVRA, esports developers and teams could also pursue restitution damages from match-fixing scandals. For example, iBUYPOWER could have sought restitution for salaries paid to the players banned by Valve as a result of the IBP scandal. With the explosive growth of esports and players now regularly making hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, teams and developers might have a financial incentive to seek restitution under the MVRA against players caught match-fixing.
IV. Applying the Philosophy to the Law
Part III above establishes our criminal justice sentencing philosophy through the factors that help guide our criminal justice sentencing. But how can we apply it to actual punishments players should receive? In fact, to date, prosecutors rarely bring criminal charges against cheaters and match-fixers in esports; South Korea has been one of the few jurisdictions that have done so. But other countries have started to notice the rise of esports and charge match-fixers with criminal punishments.
But perhaps the question shouldn’t be how severe sentencing should be, but rather if sentencing should be used at all. More lenient developers might have the better solution. This section will discuss two models: the “South Korean Model” and the “Riot Games Model.” The South Korean Model represents substantial and strict government intervention, as seen by its willingness to charge and sentence match-fixers involved in the major StarCraft scandals. The Riot Games Model represents a developer-focused approach that is far more lenient on its punishments compared to other game developers, and has not seen significant government law enforcement punishment of match-fixers. The end goal is to create one model that all game developers and countries should follow to ensure consistent and reliable legal application to match-fixing incidents. This section will first analyze each model individually, then apply the sentencing philosophy to the models, and conclude that the South Korean Model fits the criminal-sentencing philosophy more closely.
A. The South Korean Model (State and Federal Government Regulations)
Given the increasing popularity and profitability of esports, countries have an interest in protecting the integrity of their esports industry to continue to attract companies to host and sponsor tournaments in their respective countries. Newzoo forecasted that esports would generate over a billion dollars of revenue in 2020. The gaming industry (a larger industry that encompasses esports) in South Korea alone is worth almost $16 billion. Thus, governments have an incentive to curb illegal gambling and match-fixing. The idea that the state and federal governments should step in to address match-fixing and collusion is not a novel concept.
Under the National Sports Promotion Act, Articles 26, 47, and 48, gambling and match-fixing can be punished with imprisonment up to five years and a fine not exceeding 50 million South Korean won (approximately $40,000). Both StarCraft scandals resulted in players being assessed hefty fines and sentenced to prison and probation. Victoria, Australia, has seen the implementation of punishments up to ten years for causing corruption of betting outcomes “intending to obtain a financial advantage.” In the United States, schemes in commerce designed to influence sporting contests also have a penalty of up to five years or a fine.
Despite having similar laws, South Korea takes esports matters more seriously and has charged the players involved in match-fixing, while the United States did not charge the players in the IBP scandal, even though it took the NBA’s case against Donaghy in the 2007 NBA scandal. Valve did not press charges against the IBP players, but perhaps its reluctance to bring criminal charges has changed given the arrest of six Australian CS:GO players in 2019, five years after the IBP scandal. Of course, Valve may not have had any cooperation with the Victoria Police, which would indicate that governments are taking matters into their own hands.
Actively pursuing wrongdoers helps create more deterrence against match-fixing by raising the probability of apprehension discussed in Section III.A. Victoria’s willingness to threaten wrongdoers with a ten-year punishment under the 1958 Crimes Act would far surpass even the harsh South Korean law that handed out a maximum punishment of two years in prison with a suspended sentence of three years. Reconsidering the modified deterrence equation, threatening a ten-year prison sentence for match-fixers seems a much better fit to suppress the crime. But one should take care to avoid excessive punishments, so I propose a medium between two and ten years. The laws in South Korea could still establish a proper foundation, where a combination of fines, community service, prison sentence, and even gambling treatment can lessen the appearance of excessive punishments that a ten-year sentence might exhibit. This model would also cover the rehabilitation factors mentioned earlier, and a probation period for lesser offenders could help avoid the bloated prison population in America.
B. The Riot Games Model (Developer Regulations)
Most game developers and tournament organizers have been quite strict against match-fixers, which is a positive sign that companies take match-fixing seriously. In StarCraft, KeSPA banned the match-fixing players for life and wiped their records from its history. In fact, if a person walks through the StarCraft hall at Blizzcon, they will notice that the champion banners for Savior in 2007 and 2008, and Life in 2014, are all missing. In CS:GO, Valve has indefinitely banned the people involved in the IBP scandal. By contrast, organizations such as ESL and Dreamhack have lifted their bans on the players involved in the IBP scandal. The LPL has recently banned WeiYan for only two years, while previously banning Condi for 18 months.
In StarCraft, CS:GO, and Dota, there are no second chances—neither developer has unbanned the players involved in match-fixing scandals. On the other hand, Riot Games appears to allow players to reform and later return. Perhaps one difference between these results is the impact of the match-fixing scandals; the players involved in the StarCraft, CS:GO, and Dota scandals were top-tier, while WeiYan and Condi were not top-tier players in League of Legends. Exceptional and popular players have more influence on the games because they garner more fan and viewer attention. If star players are involved in match-fixing, companies have more to lose—and this can explain the harsher penalties that Blizzard and Valve have imposed. StarCraft scandals saw sponsors leave and the decline of the game. CS:GO saw its North American scene stall in development while European teams dominated the scene. But Riot should not be too lenient on match-fixers simply because its game has not felt the severe negative impacts other games have felt; instead, it should use the experience other developers have to guide its philosophy of punishing wrongdoers.
The current punishments handed out by Riot Games are insufficient, and the company should follow Blizzard’s and Valve’s lead. At minimum, players who match-fix do not deserve second chances and should be permanently banned. By handing out punishments with a weak level of severity, Riot Games fails to apply a proper deterrent to match-fixing that properly suppresses crime.
C. Framing the Sentencing Factors Around the South Korean Model
When balancing the criminal-sentencing factors, it seems clear that the harsher penalties found in the South Korean Model are needed to combat match-fixing. Match-fixing is a serious detriment to the esports industry and requires serious punishments. Some commentators have argued that the burden should be left to the organizers, who should work with the betting industry, but the existing criminal punishments for match-fixing are inadequate to successfully punish and deter wrongdoers.
To start, organizations like Riot Games that have a lenient policy must meet the minimum standards that Blizzard and Valve have set by permanently banning players from their games. Then, organizations should come together to set uniform rules against match-fixing, much like the International Olympic Committee, that make it clear to players that match-fixing will no longer be tolerated. A uniform rule can increase deterrence by banning players from ever competing in any esport if they match-fix in one esport. While I do not doubt that young match-fixers like the IBP players, including Braxton, have learned their lesson, I firmly do not believe the industry should celebrate Braxton’s entrance into VALORANT. By allowing Braxton to compete in official tournaments, Riot Games demonstrates to other players that they can match-fix in one game and simply change games to escape their punishment. Allowing players to simply switch games would miss the point of incapacitation, where normally a player who match-fixed would no longer be involved in the game. True incapacitation of a player requires a full ban across all esports should a player match-fix in even one game.
Finally, state governments should be more proactive and hands-on when it comes to charging and sentencing match-fixers. South Korea and Australia have led the charge on that front, leading to a higher probability of apprehension and stronger deterrence. While the United States has already taken some steps to recognize esports on the same level as traditional sports, it should continue to make strides in legitimizing esports by taking a stand against esports match-fixing. Ultimately, a combination of heavy fines, harsh prison sentences, and a proactive stance in regulating and overseeing gambling will result in adequate deterrence that would suppress match-fixing. Thus, this Comment recommends that: (1) the United States adopt an approach like the South Korean Model with an eye for ensuring a minimum sentencing period for wrongdoers; (2) all game developers enforce permanent bans on players that would extend to other games to ensure incapacitation; (3) governments become more proactive in tort actions by ensuring that match-fixers pay restitution to the developers hurt by the crime; and (4) prosecutors use 18 U.S.C. § 224(a) to charge wrongdoers whenever match-fixing incidents occur.
The potential for the destruction of a game, or even the entire esports industry, due to match-fixing should be more heavily scrutinized by governments and developers. The actions of match-fixing have left many questions in esports unanswered. What if StarCraft: Brood War never fell from its throne in South Korea? What if Life continued his dominance of StarCraft 2? What if IBP never threw its match? Brood War, now known as StarCraft: Remastered, continues to cling onto relevance in South Korea. The CS:GO scene finally saw a North American team reach number one in the HLTV world rankings for the first time in June 2019, five years after the IBP scandal. The devastation that some esports match-fixing events have caused to the industry cannot be overstated.
To be sure, legalized gambling in esports generates new sources of revenue and attention to the industry that can be beneficial when properly regulated. But it seems disappointing when large tournament organizers such as Dreamhack and ESL allow the IBP players to compete after match-fixing. This sends the message that match-fixers who irreparably harm the industry can be allowed to return to competitive play after a short time-out. Tournament organizers, developers, and governments must be more inclined to press harsher charges to protect their interests as match-fixing has severe negative consequences to the industry.
Luckily, change is slowly coming in favor of harsher punishments, and people are beginning to take a stronger stand against match-fixing. The Esports Integrity Commission is now working with the FBI to investigate match-fixing scandals. The NGCB created the Esports Technical Advisory Committee to provide recommendations and ensure the integrity of esports. Match-fixing has gone on for far too long, and it’s time to send a strong message that enough is enough.
From here, any mention of esports, e-sports, eSports, or Esports will be typed out as “esports” with normal punctuation.
David Purdum, Nevada Approves Wagering on 4 Esports Events, ESPN (Apr. 14, 2020), https://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/29037271/nevada-approves-wagering-3-esports-events [https://perma.cc/7ZUS-X6E4].
Mike Stubbs, ‘Dota 2’ Team Newbee Banned from Chinese Competitions for Match Fixing, Forbes (May 15, 2020, 11:06 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikestubbs/2020/05/15/dota-2-team-newbee-banned-from--chinese-competitions-for-match-fixing/?sh=5c83fc44dbe6 [https://perma.cc/RF5G-9BT4].
Id.; Hunter Mass, Valve Partners with Netflix to Make DOTA Anime, Game Rant (Feb. 17, 2021), https://gamerant.com/valve-partners-netflix-make-dota-anime/ [https://perma.cc/QD4Q-QQKY].
Alex Whiteman, A Short History of Match-Fixing in Esports, Esports Bets (Apr. 26, 2019), https://www.esportsbets.com/news/esports-match-fixing-prevalence-history/ [https://perma.cc/5L57-ZLG9] (detailing various match-fixing incidents in esports history, some of which will be discussed later in this Comment).
See Jullian Haley, Integrity and Fair Play: Can Federal Prosecution Tame the Wild West of Professional Esports?, 2021 Esports B. Ass’n J. 1, 9–10 (2021), https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ae7817b9772ae61dd36e43b/t/61807a1b4eab963700b25ff0/1635809821020/Volume2021_final2.pdf [https://perma.cc/7BKV-G2KR] (suggesting that the RICO Act is a good starting point for federal prosecutors); Bryce Blum, How the U.S. Gambling Decision Will Affect Esports, ESPN (May 14, 2018), https://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/23507383/how-us-supreme-court-gambling-decision-affect-esports [https://perma.cc/TL2M-4H4C] (proposing that esports emulate the current NBA model of dealing with legalized gambling).
Bryce Blum, Founder Bio, ESG Law, https://esglaw.com/founder [https://perma.cc/UDP2-H4FS] (last visited Jan. 8, 2022).
Blum’s article is geared towards the fiscal impact that gambling might have on the industry and what the industry’s strategy should be to either legalize or prevent gambling. See Blum, supra note 7.
See, e.g., Jodi S. Balsam, Criminalizing Match-Fixing as America Legalizes Sports Gambling, 31 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 1, 13–16 (2020) (describing how Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee charged with game manipulation, escaped conviction under the Sports Bribery Act due to technicalities in the law).
David Crump’s textbook on criminal law was used in my criminal law class at the University of Houston Law Center. See Crump et al., Criminal Law: Cases, Statutes, and Lawyering Strategies (3d ed. 2013); infra note 48 and accompanying text.
AJ Willingham, What Is eSports? A Look at an Explosive Billion-Dollar Industry, CNN (Aug. 27, 2018, 2:18 PM), https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/27/us/esports-what-is-video-game-professional-league-madden-trnd/index.html [https://perma.cc/F7HE-V589].
Paul Chaloner, This Is Esports (and How to Spell It) 15–19 (2020) (discussing how esports also capture various genres of video games such as real-time strategy games (RTS), multiplayer online battle arena games (MOBAs), first-person shooter games, sports simulations (“sims”), and fighting games).
See Top Games Awarding Prize Money, Esports Earnings, https://www.esportsearnings.com/games [https://perma.cc/5XEG-JJ2Y] (last visited Dec. 26, 2021).
Lawrence Phillips, The History of Esports, Hotspawn (Apr. 1, 2020, 4:01 PM), https://www.hotspawn.com/guides/the-history-of-esports/https://www.hotspawn.com/guides/the-history-of-esports/https://www.hotspawn.com/guides/the-history-of-esports/ [https://perma.cc/SB8Q-YRB4].
Innovation, Immersion, Intensity, id Software, https://www.idsoftware.com/en-us [https://perma.cc/SXG9-UPZ8] (last visited Dec. 17, 2021).
Id.; John Davison, How ‘Quake’ Changed Video Games Forever, Rolling Stone (June 22, 2016, 9:40 PM), https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/how-quake-changed-video-games-forever-187984/ [https://perma.cc/XDN4-WTM7] (discussing how Quake’s multiplayer functions were what started the drive for competition and gave birth to the true esports movement).
Esports History: The First Few Years of Competitive Gaming, Bitspawn (July 22, 2020), https://bitspawn.gg/esports-history-the-first-few-years-of-competitive-gaming/ [https://perma.cc/2WME-JBWU] (StarCraft is broadcast in South Korea to this day).
Willingham, supra note 12 (citing a multi-year broadcasting deal made by ESPN and Disney XD with the Overwatch League); Daniel Marcus, Following the Money in Esports, Forbes (Dec. 30, 2019, 12:09 PM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielmarcus/2020/12/30/following-the-money-in-e-sports/?sh=2cde6c0994b5 [https://perma.cc/BML3-TLPD] (“Of the projected $1.1 Billion in gross revenue e-sports is expected to have . . . 82% will come from advertising and sponsorships as more and more mainstream brands like Coca Cola and T-Mobile begin to make substantial investments . . . .”); Andrew Cohen, Overwatch League Signs First Esports Merchandising Deal with Fanatics, SportTechie (Dec. 3, 2018), https://www.sporttechie.com/overwatch-league-signs-first-esports-merchandising-deal-with-fanatics/ [https://perma.cc/RC2J-PNE3].
Top 100 Highest Overall Earnings, Esports Earnings, https://www.esportsearnings.com/players [https://perma.cc/MXG7-BTQ7] (last visited Dec. 17, 2021); see also The International 2019, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/dota2/The_International/2019 [https://perma.cc/HRL3-VSP5] (Oct. 21, 2021, 10:20 AM) (noting the total prize pool for this event alone was over $34 million, with the first-place team taking home over $15 million).
Rachel Samples, Jensen Reportedly Agrees to 3-Year, $4.2 Million Extension with Team Liquid, Dot Esports (Oct. 27, 2020, 5:53 PM), https://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/jensen-reportedly-agrees-to-3-year-4-2-million-extension-with-team-liquid [https://perma.cc/7RXB-GC99] (noting that notable contracts made in the past few years included a three-year, $3.4 million contract for Impact on Team Liquid, and a two-year, $2.3 million contract for Huni on Dignitas); see also Aaron Alford, The Average 2020 LCS Player Salary Is Reportedly $410,000, Dot Esports (May 27, 2020, 4:19 PM), https://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/the-average-2020-lcs-player-salary-is-reportedly-410000 [https://perma.cc/LH3W-MCHX] (noting that with million-dollar contracts, lower-tier players make far less than the average and that this figure may be misleading); Tyler Esguerra, TSM Signs SwordArt to Record-Breaking $6 Million Deal, Dot Esports (Nov. 26, 2020, 10:39 AM), https://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/tsm-signs-swordart-to-record-breaking-6-million-deal https://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/tsm-signs-swordart-to-record-breaking-6-million-deal[https://perma.cc/97WG-7ND6].
Manali Kulkarni, The Continued Rise of eSport – Efforts to Combat Match Fixing and Improve Integrity, LawInSport (Sept. 2, 2016), https://www.lawinsport.com/topics/item/the-continued-rise-of-esport-efforts-to-combat-match-fixing-and-improve-integrity [https://perma.cc/BFJ2-R4AK] (“Consequently, we should expect that as the market increases so will attempts to manipulate it.”).
See Match-Fixing, Cambridge Dictionary, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/match-fixing [https://perma.cc/6G3U-8YS7] (last visited Jan. 8, 2022); see also Match-Fixing, Lexico, https://www.lexico.com/definition/match-fixing [https://perma.cc/5BNK-RWJR] (last visited Jan. 6, 2022) (“[T]he action or practice of dishonestly determining the outcome of a match before it is played.”).
18 U.S.C. § 224(a) (“Whoever carries into effect . . . any scheme in commerce to influence, in any way, by bribery any sporting contest . . . shall be fined under this title.”).
Match Fixing Scandal, Liquipedia (Apr. 10, 2019, 10:56 AM), https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/Match_Fixing_Scandal [https://perma.cc/4GW5-NEPV].
Konadora, Match-Fixing Scandal - Conclusion, TL (May 1, 2010, 2:23 AM), https://tl.net/forum/news-archive/125601-match-fixing-scandal-conclusion [https://perma.cc/FW3K-BR3G] (“The brokers used their relationships with the progamer Mr. Ma (obviously savior) to offer other progamers between 2~6.5 million won ($2k~6.5k) to intentionally lose matches.”).
Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25.
Jinjin5000, How Match Fixing Destroyed StarCraft’s Asian Games Dream [Subbed], YouTube (June 15, 2020), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdt_p6MRYE4 [https://perma.cc/L4DX-ME43] (account by Lee Young Ho, a.k.a. FlaSh, with video discussing how match-fixing irreparably damaged the potential for StarCraft to continue growing by preventing its entry into the Asian Games and saw live match attendance cut in half); Flash, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/Flash [https://perma.cc/3V5Y-UMN2] (last visited Mar. 16, 2022); see also David O’Keefe, How Blizzard’s StarCraft Became South Korea’s National Pastime, Esports Observer (Oct. 29, 2018), https://archive.esportsobserver.com/starcraft-ii-esports-essentials/ [https://perma.cc/B4G4-5DEF] (“[I]n 2010 . . . a match-fixing scandal involving 11 players . . . rocked the integrity of the professional scene.”).
Hite SPARKYZ, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/Hite_SPARKYZ [https://perma.cc/5LXZ-YPAJ] (last visited Jan. 9, 2022).
Proleague, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/Proleague [https://perma.cc/CMV5-PMTK] (last visited Jan. 6, 2022); see Hite SPARKYZ, supra note 29 (noting that Hite SPARKYZ was formed in 2000, started competing in 2003, and achieved its last result in 2009). While professional StarCraft is played in an individual setting, Proleague is when teams field players to compete in multiple sets of one-versus-one matches, like table tennis team events in the Olympics. Proleague, supra; StarCraft Professional Competition, StarCraft Wiki, https://starcraft.fandom.com/wiki/StarCraft_professional_competition [https://perma.cc/5UN7-F7VJ] (last visited Jan. 30, 2022); see also Oliver Adey, China’s Overwhelming Power Is Too Great: German Table Tennis Men Win Silver, Get to Text (Aug. 21, 2021), https://gettotext.com/chinas-overwhelming-power-is-too-great-german-table-tennis-men-win-silver [https://perma.cc/2BAF-UAM6]; Eimi Yamamitsu, Table Tennis-Dominant China Take Men’s Team Gold, Reuters, Aug. 6, 2021, 10:50 AM, https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/table-tennis-japan-beat-south-korea-win-bronze-mens-team-event-2021-08-06/ [https://perma.cc/B7AA-TC6Z] (noting that individual players Fan Zhendong, Ma Long, and Xu Xin from China faced off against Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Timo Boll, and Patrick Franziska).
DragonDefonce, CJ Entus and Hite Sparkyz to Merge, TL (Oct. 12, 2010, 2:14 AM), https://tl.net/forum/community-news-archive/160027-cj-entus-and-hite-sparkyz-to-merge [https://perma.cc/Q9SZ-NPCF].
Including Hite Sparkyz, five teams disbanded while Shinhan Bank dropped its sponsorship of the Proleague. See Waxangel, eSTRO to Be Sold or Disbanded, TL (Aug. 9, 2010, 5:25 AM), https://tl.net/forum/brood-war/142554-estro-to-be-sold-or-disbanded [https://perma.cc/4TTR-Q5MJ]; eton7410, Hwaseung Oz Reported to Disband, TL (Aug. 24, 2011, 10:55 PM), https://tl.net/forum/brood-war/258396-hwaseung-oz-reported-to-disband [https://perma.cc/84JV-HEPM]; Clefairy, Air Force Ace to Disband, TL (July 22, 2012, 8:41 PM), https://tl.net/forum/brood-war/355060-air-force-ace-to-disband [https://perma.cc/J286-5GUY]; nokz88, MBC Game’s Closure Now Official, TL (Nov. 25, 2011, 1:34 AM), https://tl.net/forum/brood-war/288862-mbc-games-closure-now-official [https://perma.cc/KT58-DD5P].
MBCGame StarCraft League (MSL), Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/MBCGame_StarCraft_League_(MSL) [https://perma.cc/5XR2-2U5X] (last visited Jan. 9, 2022); OnGameNet Starleague (OSL), Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/OnGameNet_Starleague_(OSL) [https://perma.cc/48DG-GJH8] (last visited Jan. 9, 2022).
Valve, Integrity and Fair Play, Counter-Strike: Blog (Jan. 26, 2015), https://blog.counter-strike.net/index.php/2015/01/11261/ [https://perma.cc/696U-VV6N];https://blog.counter-strike.net/index.php/2015/01/11261/ Richard Lewis, New Evidence Points to Match-Fixing at Highest Level of American Counter-Strike, Dot Esports (Jan. 16, 2015, 4:03 PM), https://dotesports.com/counter-strike/news/match-fixing-counter-strike-ibuypower-netcode-guides-1256 [https://perma.cc/3WH5-GS3M].
theScore esports, The Story of Matchfixing in Esports, YouTube (May 11, 2019), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dojhjTkZaeA [https://perma.cc/92SR-RGN2].
Samuel Delorme, C9 Becomes First North American Team to Win CS:GO Major, ESPN (Jan. 28, 2018), https://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/22245044/cloud9-becomes-first-north-american-team-win-counter-strike-global-offensive-major https://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/22245044/cloud9-becomes-first-north-american-team-win-counter-strike-global-offensive-major[https://perma.cc/JVY7-VYSY].
2015 Match-Fixing Scandal, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft2/2015_Match-Fixing_Scandal [https://perma.cc/QEV5-682B] (last visited Jan. 9, 2022); Life, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft2/Life [https://perma.cc/74X3-UPY2] (last visited Jan. 30, 2022).
Waxangel, Life’s Match-Fixing Appeal Dismissed, TL (July 14, 2016), https://tl.net/forum/starcraft-2/511634-lifes-match-fixing-appeal-dismissedhttps://tl.net/forum/starcraft-2/511634-lifes-match-fixing-appeal-dismissed [https://perma.cc/7CNV-MD6K]; see Currency Converter, Oanda, https://www.oanda.com/currency-converter/en/?from=USD&to=KRW&amount=61117.2 [https://perma.cc/YA7W-G8YM] (last visited Mar. 9, 2022) (converting 70 million South Korean won into U.S. dollars in April 2016).
Alex Leckie-Zaharic, Condi Suspended for 18 Months as Major LPL Match-Fixing Scandal Exposed, Dot Esports (June 18, 2019, 8:51 AM), https://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/condi-suspended-for-18-months-as-major-lpl-match-fixing-scandal-exposedhttps://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/condi-suspended-for-18-months-as-major-lpl-match-fixing-scandal-exposed [https://perma.cc/Q8ST-JC9B].
Condi, Fandom, https://lol.fandom.com/wiki/Condi [https://perma.cc/TNA9-M3T9] (last visited Dec. 26, 2021).
Newbee, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/dota2/Newbee [https://perma.cc/8ZTE-9S96] (last visited Dec. 21, 2021).
Rod Breslau (@Slasher), Twitter (Jan. 3, 2021, 1:30 AM),https://twitter.com/Slasher/status/1345663915406057472 https://twitter.com/Slasher/status/1345663915406057472 [https://perma.cc/M5QD-GJCC].
Tom Matthiesen, The LPL Has Banned WeiYan for 2 Years Due to Match-Fixing, Inven Global (Mar. 27, 2020), https://www.invenglobal.com/articles/10776/the-lpl-has-banned-weiyan-for-2-years-due-to-match-fixinghttps://www.invenglobal.com/articles/10776/the-lpl-has-banned-weiyan-for-2-years-due-to-match-fixing [https://perma.cc/3PEL-LQQC].
Some players got lifetime bans while others got less than two-year suspensions. See infra Sections IV.A–B.
See infra Sections IV.A–B.
Crump et al., supra note 11, at 556; see also 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(B) (stating that judges should consider the idea of adequate deterrence with regards to criminal conduct).
Crump et al., supra note 11, at 557.
David Crump, U. Hous. L. Ctr., http://www.law.uh.edu/faculty/main.asp?PID=9 [https://perma.cc/LH39-GDU6] (last visited Dec. 26, 2021).
Crump et al., supra note 11, at 556.
Id. at 560; see also Mark C. Stafford & Mark Warr, A Reconceptualization of General and Specific Deterrence, 30 J. Rsch. Crime & Delinq. 123, 123, 125, 131 (1993) (“[G]eneral deterrence refers to the effects of legal punishment on the general public (i.e., potential offenders).”).
Valve banned the players involved in the IBP match-fixing scandal permanently from Valve-sanctioned tournaments. Valve, supra note 34. However, some of the banned players have gone to compete in other esports games over time. Tyler Erzberger, Brax’s Second Chance as the First VALORANT Pro, ESPN (June 17, 2020), https://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/29328483/brax-second-chance-first-valorant-pro [https://perma.cc/3ZYH-773Z] (discussing Braxton “swag” Pierce’s ban due to the IBP scandal and his subsequent return to professional esports after being signed by T1 for the game VALORANT).
See Stafford & Warr, supra note 52, at 125.
Alex Raskolnikov, Deterrence Theory: Key Findings and Challenges 1 (Colum. L. Sch. Working Paper, Paper No. 610, 2019), https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/2576/https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/2576/ [https://perma.cc/U8D8-QCQR].
Kelli D. Tomlinson, An Examination of Deterrence Theory: Where Do We Stand?, 80 Fed. Prob. J. 33, 34 (2016), https://www.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/usct10024-fedprobation-dec2016_0.pdfhttps://www.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/usct10024-fedprobation-dec2016_0.pdf [https://perma.cc/4ZA8-KL2P].
Id. Tomlinson also discusses other studies that imply that the certainty of punishment is more important than the severity of celerity as a result of being caught. Id. at 35; see also David Crump, Deterrence, 49 St. Mary’s L.J. 317, 320 (2018) (“By this theory, the more certainty there is in detection, apprehension, conviction and sentence, the greater the deterrent.”).
Blum, supra note 7.
“[C]apitalize on the growth of esports betting as a means to enhancing growth for the industry itself, and implement an industry-wide effort to combat the potential problems that will result from increased wagering on esports in the U.S.” Id.
Balsam, supra note 10, at 24–25 (describing how the current sports infrastructure lacks the tools to provide adequate protections against bribery, crime, and money-laundering).
Crump, supra note 58, at 320 (“[T]he severity of the probable sanction is said to correlate with the probability that the crime will be costly.”).
See id. at 321–22 (discussing a mathematical equation that tests if the deterrent properly operates to suppress the theoretical reward from committing a crime if not caught).
See Waxangel, supra note 38 (noting Life’s substantial fine of approximately $61,000).
18 U.S.C. § 224(a).
Crump, supra note 58, at 322 (discussing how if C x S is less than R, other factors from the justice system are needed in order to properly deter criminals).
For example, if a match-fixer gains $50,000 for throwing a series of games, and as a result the tournament organizer loses a sponsorship of $100,000 by a tech company, and the probability of being caught is 75%, then the severity must be increased to $200,000 in fines or an equivalent sentencing time. Id. at 321–22.
See supra Section II.B.
HLTVorg, Coach Bans Explained by ESIC, Stream-Snipe Scandal Coming? (ft. Ian Smith) | HLTV Confirmed S5E9, YouTube, at 1:06:16 (Sept. 29, 2020), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOrHN8FA7j8 [https://perma.cc/6SXN-KBZW] (showing Ian Smith strongly opposes lifetime bans for teenage players).
See Stafford & Warr, supra note 52, at 124.
Crump et al., supra note 11, at 556.
See Match-Fixing Scandal, supra note 25 (noting players were banned permanently from professional gaming by KeSPA); see also Valve, supra note 34 (banning IBP players from ever competing in Valve-sanctioned events).
See Erzberger, supra note 53 (discussing Braxton’s return to esports by being signed to VALORANT, a game made by a different developer).
See, e.g., Yen-Shyang Tseng, The Principles of Esports Engagement: A Universal Code of Conduct, 27 J. Intell. Prop. L. 209, 249–50 (2020) (proposing a universal code that could allow for cross-esports bans so that a cheater or toxic player banned from one esport cannot simply resurface in another).
As an example, the International Olympic Committee and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime came together to create solutions to combat match-fixing in sports. Int’l Olympic Comm. & U.N. Off. on Drugs & Crime, Criminalization Approaches to Combat Match-Fixing and Illegal/Irregular Betting: A Global Perspective 13 (July 2013), https://www.unodc.org/documents/corruption/Publications/2013/Criminalization_approaches_to_combat_match-fixing.pdf [https://perma.cc/LV83-3W5M] [hereinafter IOC & UNODC Report].
It is possible for a player to become involved in the gambling business, which is what Tim Donaghy, a former NBA referee caught for providing inside information on NBA games to third parties, does now. Frank Fitzpatrick, Former NBA Referee Tim Donaghy, Wearing His Disgrace Like a Scarlet Letter, Awaits Release of Film on His Scandal, Phila. Inquirer (Nov. 1, 2019), https://www.inquirer.com/sixers/tim-donaghy-inside-game-nba-referee-gambling-scandal-20191101.html [https://perma.cc/L2BH-GZ7W].
See Role of the Correctional System, Law Dictionary, https://thelawdictionary.org/article/role-of-the-correctional-system/ [https://perma.cc/JB6S-UU6D] (last visited Dec. 17, 2021).
“Loot boxes” are items in video games that can be paid for with real-world money but contain randomized content. Spending money on loot boxes has caused concern among regulators, leading some to question whether they may cause gambling-related harm. David Zendle et al., Adolescents and Loot Boxes: Links with Problem Gambling and Motivations for Purchase, Royal Soc’y Publ’g (May 10, 2019), https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsos.190049 [https://perma.cc/FE4M-6EX9].
Jordan Noble, CS:GO Skins Betting Sites—Best Alternatives to Skin Betting 2022, Strafe (Mar. 10, 2022), https://www.strafe.com/esports-betting/guide/skin-gambling/ [https://perma.cc/RYM7-6QML].
See, e.g., CSGO Lotto Owners Settle FTC’s First-Ever Complaint Against Individual Social Media Influencers, Fed. Trade Comm’n (Sept. 7, 2017), https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2017/09/csgo-lotto-owners-settle-ftcs-first-ever-complaint-against-individual-social-media-influencers [https://perma.cc/BD8L-49HP]; see also Allegra Frank, Counter-Strike Gambling Scandal Comes to an End with FTC Settlement, Polygon (Sept. 7, 2017, 7:26 PM), https://www.polygon.com/2017/9/7/16271520/csgo-lotto-scandal-counter-strike-betting-ftc-endorsement-guidelines [https://perma.cc/9HCV-57GK].
Ethan Sacks, Inside the $50 Billion ‘Counter-Strike’ Skins Industry, InsideHook (Nov. 18, 2017, 10:00 AM), https://www.insidehook.com/article/tech/counter-strike-global-offensive-skins-crypto-tokens [https://perma.cc/V3EK-HXHN].
Justin, one of the players caught in the StarCraft match-fixing scandal, received forty hours of gambling treatment in addition to his fine and sentence. Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25.
Donaghy Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison in Gambling Scandal, ESPN (July 29, 2008), https://www.espn.com/nba/news/story?id=3509440 [https://perma.cc/RQL2-7LEB] (reporting that Tim Donaghy was only sentenced to prison time and supervised release).
See Fitzpatrick, supra note 79.
Crump et al., supra note 11, at 556.
Gerard V. Bradley, Retribution: The Central Aim of Punishment, 27 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 19, 20–21 (2003).
Id. at 19–21 (establishing the author’s opinion that theories of deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation standing alone are not adequate justification for punishment, may be more aptly considered secondary forms of punishment, and that “[o]nly retribution . . . justifies punishing criminals”).
Id. at 22–23 (using the example of how society has deemed that driving on the right side of the road is preferable, even though driving on the left side, in a vacuum, is no different from driving on the right).
Id. at 23.
Id. (“[T]he criminal unfairly usurps liberty to pursue his own interests and plans in a manner contrary to the common boundaries delineated by the law.”).
Matt Porter, Former OpTic India Player Forsaken Explains Why He Cheated, Dexerto (Oct. 24, 2018, 1:14 PM), https://www.dexerto.com/csgo/former-op-tic-india-player-forsaken-explains-why-he-cheated-199549/ [https://perma.cc/ZP4Z-UCDU] (discussing that Forsaken said he used cheats in order to compensate his aim because he was not confident in it).
Luke Plunkett, Accused League of Legends Cheaters Fined $30,000, Kotaku (Oct. 10, 2012, 6:58 PM), https://kotaku.com/accused-league-of-legends-cheaters-fined-30-000-5950746 [https://perma.cc/XG8W-GLKP] (players on Azubu Frost looked behind them to a monitor that displayed the game and identified where the opponent players were standing in the fog of war).
See, e.g., Tseng, supra note 77, at 240 (listing various forms of cheating).
MLB, Official Baseball Rules 5–6 (2018) (stating in § 3.02(a) that the bat must be one solid piece of wood, the cork must not be inserted into the bat, and pine tar cannot be applied past the eighteen-inch handle portion under (c)); Brendan Koerner, How Does Corking a Bat Help a Hitter?, Slate (June 4, 2003, 5:10 PM), https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2003/06/why-baseball-players-cork-their-bats.html [https://perma.cc/535B-9CTU]; The Complete Guide to Pine Tar in Baseball, Baseball Monkey (Jan. 8, 2020), https://www.baseballmonkey.com/learn/pine-tar [https://perma.cc/HVZ6-SPQ2].
Neil Vigdor, The Houston Astros’ Cheating Scandal: Sign-Stealing, Buzzer Intrigue and Tainted Pennants, N.Y. Times (Nov. 3, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/article/astros-cheating.html [https://perma.cc/2FSD-3JGS] (describing how the Astros used technology designed for challenging calls on the field as a method for stealing the catcher’s signs and would then bang on a trashcan to notify their hitter if the pitch was an off-speed pitch or a fastball).
Bradley, supra note 89, at 23.
Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25 (“[P]layers were approached by online betting websites and agreed to throw games for financial gain, either from the money the websites paid them, or by betting against themselves.”).
DragonDefonce, supra note 31; Philippa Warr, KeSPA Announces Closure of StarCraft Proleague, Rock Paper Shotgun (Oct. 18, 2016), https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/kespa-starcraft-proleague-closure [https://perma.cc/75BD-N5G3].
Starcraft Translator, [ENG SUB] After the LAST Starcraft League – Part 1 [Starcraft Translator], YouTube (May 3, 2020), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpcNo0IXoPI [https://perma.cc/M2M8-YVLN].
See Graham Ashton, INTERVIEW: Ian Smith, ESIC – "Match Fixing’s Impact on Esports Will Be a Loss of Major Sponsorship Deals, Audience, and Credibility," Esports Observer (Sept. 19, 2017), https://esportsobserver.com/interview-ian-smith-esic/ [https://perma.cc/FB8G-4PYD].
See supra Section III.A (discussing altering the equation to C x S > R + D).
See supra Section II.B (discussing the downfall of StarCraft: Brood War and the setback to North American CS:GO); see also supra Section III.A (discussing how fiscal impact and damages could be calculated in Crump’s equation).
See supra notes 31–33 and accompanying text.
Newzoo Global Esports Market Report 2020 | Light Version, Newzoo, https://newzoo.com/insights/trend-reports/newzoo-global-esports-market-report-2020-light-version [https://perma.cc/7SS4-US6Z] (last visited Jan. 9, 2022) (noting that Newzoo estimated $822.4 million of the $1.1 billion global revenue would “come from media rights and sponsorship”).
Bill Wilson, How Match Fixers Can Cripple a Sport’s Economic Future, BBC (May 17, 2015), https://www.bbc.com/news/business-32720777 [https://perma.cc/8NQB-72BN] (“Sponsors run for the hills, you get bad publicity, and a sport’s finances suffer.”).
Dan Holmes, The Nine Biggest Scandals in Baseball History, Baseball Egg (Mar. 4, 2020), https://baseballegg.com/2020/03/04/the-nine-most-scandalous-scandals-in-baseball-history/ [https://perma.cc/HR34-RUFP]. Note that two of the top three scandals have occurred in the past two decades. Id.; see also Maury Brown, Despite Myths Baseball Is ‘Dying,’ Here’s Why MLB Is Primed for Growth, Forbes (Nov. 2, 2021, 8:13 PM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2021/11/02/dispelling-myths-late-world-series-starts-tv-viewership-and-mlb-is-dying/?sh=7f15d86a6029 [https://perma.cc/YSJ6-PXDY].
United States v. Donaghy, 570 F. Supp. 2d 411, 415, 419 (E.D.N.Y. 2008). The NBA also sought restitution against Donaghy’s co-conspirators under the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 (VWPA), which is “the MVRA’s discretionary counterpart.” Id. at 415.
Id. at 424, 428, 437.
See Valve, supra note 34.
See Alford, supra note 21.
Instances of match-fixing in the United States and China have not seen any criminal proceedings against match-fixers. See, e.g., Valve, supra note 34; Leckie-Zaharic, supra note 39; Matthiesen, supra note 45; Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25.
See, e.g., ESIC (@ESIC_Official), Twitter (Aug. 23, 2019, 5:13 AM), https://twitter.com/ESIC_Official/status/1164843129821790208 [https://perma.cc/9ZH6-53RS] (reporting that Victoria, Australia police arrested CS:GO match-fixers); see also Giulio Coraggio et al., Esports Laws of the World 30, 47–48 (2021) (noting Brazil presented multiple bills in the last few years to recognize esports as a valid sport, and Chile’s steps to begin regulating esports).
See Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25; 2015 Match-Fixing Scandal, supra note 37 (reporting that all Korean players implicated in match-fixing were at a minimum fined for some amount while more serious offenders were sentenced to prison).
It is important to distinguish between Riot Games, Valve, and Blizzard, as the first has yet to permanently ban players for match-fixing while the latter two developers have taken stronger stances: permanent bans against match-fixers. Compare Leckie-Zaharic, supra note 39, and Matthiesen, supra note 45 (noting that Riot Games only gave temporary suspensions for match-fixers), with Valve, supra note 34 (noting Valve’s permanent ban of the IBP players), and Banned Players, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft2/Banned_players [https://perma.cc/4BBX-DHNT] (March 24, 2022, 8:34 AM) (noting Blizzard has permanently banned Life, YoDa, Bbyong, BBoongBBoong, and Gerrard as a result of the 2015 Match-Fixing Scandal); see also Esports Giant Riot Games Agrees to Pay $100 Million to Settle Gender-Based Class Action Suit, CBS News (Dec. 28, 2021, 5:21 AM), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/riot-games-league-of-legends-esports-giant-100-million-settle-gender-based-class-action-lawsuit/ [https://perma.cc/FZW2-W7M3] (noting that Riot Games is the publisher of League of Legends).
Note that the various League of Legends match-fixing scandals have not resulted in any government intervention, only sanctions and fines by the LPL. See Leckie-Zaharic, supra note 39; Matthiesen, supra note 45.
See Balsam, supra note 10, at 28 (pointing out how the UNODC and IOC jointly came together to create and publish a model for criminal provisions that could become consistent).
Corporations are taxed at a 21% rate, which means the more successful an esports corporation is, the more tax dollars that the government can collect. 26 U.S.C. § 11(b). It therefore follows that countries want their businesses to become more successful to generate more tax revenue.
See Newzoo Global Esports Market Report 2020, supra note 108.
Nina Jobst, Gaming Industry Size South Korea 2006-2023, Statista (Jan. 18, 2022), https://www.statista.com/statistics/825058/south-korea-gaming-industry-size/ [https://perma.cc/3S63-JKUZ] (stating that in 2020, the market value of South Korea’s gaming market was around 18.89 trillion South Korean won); Yearly Average Currency Exchange Rates, IRS (Jan. 24, 2022), https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/yearly-average-currency-exchange-rates [https://perma.cc/79VV-AP7F] (noting that the conversion rate in 2020 was 1179 South Korean won to one U.S. dollar, making the value of South Korea’s gaming market worth approximately $16 billion). While the gaming industry is not perfectly correlated to the esports industry, it is worth noting that the incredible value of gaming may impact the value of esports.
Tournaments and World Championships are played with teams that represent different countries all around the world, which means esports is a global phenomenon much like the Olympics. See, e.g., Jerome Heath, All Teams Qualified for Worlds 2021, Dot Esports (Sept. 23, 2021, 2:00 AM), https://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/all-teams-qualified-worlds-2021 [https://perma.cc/LPG7-EE8K] (multiple teams from the major regions of South Korea, China, Europe, and North America compete alongside teams from minor regions such as Japan, Brazil, and Turkey).
Chile’s gambling laws do not currently regulate esports gambling, but “Chilean casinos are expressly forbidden to operate online gambling platforms.” See Corragio et al., supra note 116, at 46.
National Sports Promotion Act, arts. 26, 47, 48 (S. Kor.), translated in Korean Legislation Research Institute’s online database, http://elaw.klri.re.kr/eng_mobile/viewer.do?hseq=27208&type=part&key=16 [https://perma.cc/AT4S-EE6E].
See Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25; 2015 Match-Fixing Scandal, supra note 37.
Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) pt I div 2B s 195D (Austl.).
18 U.S.C. § 224.
See Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25.
See Joe O’Brien, Six People Arrested in Relation to CSGO Match Fixing, Dexerto (Aug. 23, 2019, 8:46 AM), https://www.dexerto.com/csgo/csgo-six-people-arrested-match-fixing-942335/ [https://perma.cc/VDN7-P27F]; United States v. Donaghy, 570 F. Supp. 2d 411, 415, 421 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) (holding that the NBA was a victim and deserved restitution under the MVRA).
O’Brien, supra note 131; Lewis, supra note 34.
See supra Section III.A.
Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) pt I div 2B s 195D (Austl.).
2015 Match-Fixing Scandal, supra note 37 (also noting that a suspended sentence is probation that occurs before the prison sentence that, with good behavior during the probation, can cause the person to be exempted from the original sentence).
See supra Section III.D.
See Match Fixing Scandal, supra note 25 (noting that Justin received a smaller fine but a heftier assortment of charges, like forty hours in a gambling-treatment program).
See supra Section III.C.
Dennis Schrantz et al., Decarceration Strategies: How 5 States Achieved Substantial Prison Population Reductions, Sent’g Project (Sept. 5, 2018), https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/decarceration-strategies-5-states-achieved-substantial-prison-population-reductions/ [https://perma.cc/7USF-8A7G].
The Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) manages esports in South Korea. KeSPA, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/KeSPA [https://perma.cc/H2XH-3PWP] (Aug. 17, 2021, 10:15 AM).
MrHoon, Match Fixing Players All Banned by Kespa, TL (June 7, 2010, 11:37 AM), https://tl.net/forum/news-archive/129893-match-fixing-players-all-banned-by-kespa [https://perma.cc/9M3T-WR58].
Kwanghee Woo, Examining the Life Situation, Without the Moralizing, Medium (Apr. 4, 2017), https://medium.com/@SaintSnorlax/examining-the-life-situation-without-the-moralizing-c047ff0dc2a0 [https://perma.cc/CF6C-MA9Y] (noting that the Savior and Life banners in the BlizzCon Hall of Honor have been removed); see Savior, Liquipedia (Mar. 8, 2022, 2:45 AM), https://liquipedia.net/starcraft/SAviOr [https://perma.cc/J8NX-TY5K].
Valve, supra note 34.
Luís Mira, Ex-iBUYPOWER Unbanned from ESL Tournaments, HLTV (July 24, 2017, 9:32 AM), https://www.hltv.org/news/21137/ex-ibuypower-unbanned-from-esl-tournaments [https://perma.cc/7GWS-RDTX]; Oliver Ring, DreamHack Align to ESIC Recommendations, iBP Unbanned from Events, Esports Insider (Sept. 7, 2017), https://esportsinsider.com/2017/09/dreamhack-align-esic-recommendations/ [https://perma.cc/SS2A-KWJD].
Matthiesen, supra note 45.
Leckie-Zaharic, supra note 39.
See, e.g., Banned Players, supra note 118 (noting that the bans for the players involved in the 2015 match-fixing scandal are indefinite).
See Matthiesen, supra note 45.
In fact, while Condi did manage to place third/fourth at the 2017 World Championships, he never saw success again in League of Legends, which may have given him a motive to match-fix for money. Condi, supra note 42; see Gökhan Çakir, What Is Match-Fixing in Esports?, Dot Esports (Apr. 17, 2021, 12:52 PM), https://dotesports.com/general/news/what-is-match-fixing-in-esports [https://perma.cc/NG69-L49C]; Yan “Wei” Yang Wei–League of Legends Player, Esports Earnings, https://www.esportsearnings.com/players/65157-wei-yan-yang-wei [https://perma.cc/LGM9-EB4M] (last visited Jan. 28, 2022).
See, e.g., Leo Howell, Faker Sets Individual Twitch Streaming Record with 245,100 Concurrent Viewers, ESPN (Feb. 6, 2017), https://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/18632916/faker-sets-individual-twitch-streaming-record-245100-concurrent-viewers [https://perma.cc/72KN-LU3U] (noting that Faker is lauded by many as the greatest League of Legends player of all time and set a new streaming record in his debut on Twitch).
See, e.g., supra note 32.
CS:GO Major Championships, Liquipedia, https://liquipedia.net/counterstrike/Majors [https://perma.cc/CS2P-DABQ] (last visited Jan. 6, 2022). Both finalists in every major have been European teams besides Cloud 9’s win in Boston 2018 and Team Liquid’s second-place finish in Cologne 2016. Id. Even then, Team Liquid’s team was led by star player s1mple, a Ukrainian. Id.
See supra Section III.A.
“In the meanwhile, the burden of preventing match-fixing fall[s] upon the eSports event organizers themselves.” Joss Wood, Korean Match-Fixing Report Undermines the Integrity of StarCraft 2 Competitions, Lines (Oct. 1, 2019), https://www.thelines.com/match-fixing-esports-south-korea/ [https://perma.cc/JZ4X-5SE2].
See IOC & UNODC Report, supra note 78, at 13, 300–01.
See Tseng, supra note 77 (discussing cross-esports bans).
Braxton’s answers in his interview with ESPN revealed he was extremely depressed and regretful of his actions. Erzberger, supra note 53.
While I am not trying to equate esports match-fixers to sex offenders, sex offenders cannot simply escape their registrations by moving to a different jurisdiction. See 34 U.S.C. § 20913.
Paul Tassi, The U.S. Now Recognizes eSports Players as Professional Athletes, Forbes (July 14, 2013, 11:27 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2013/07/14/the-u-s-now-recognizes-esports-players-as-professional-athletes/?sh=146045063ac9 [https://perma.cc/RJL8-8XTL].
CS:GO World Ranking on June 10th, 2019, HLTV (June 10, 2019), https://www.hltv.org/ranking/teams/2019/june/10 [https://perma.cc/4VUE-8TCF].
Bryce Blum, How Gambling Can Be Good for Esports, Dot Esports (June 3, 2015, 12:43 PM), https://dotesports.com/general/news/gambling-esports-benefits-1974 [https://perma.cc/ZD8L-EBP3].
Nevake, [Subs] After Talk: Betting Scandal, YouTube (May 24, 2010), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1htnkAiKdzU [https://perma.cc/FZ2Y-G387]. Commentators discuss the 2010 scandal and remark on the energy they spent building an industry only to be stabbed in the back by players they trusted. Id. The video is highly informative for how the Korean community reacted to the match-fixing scandal and viewed the players. Contrast this to how the CS:GO community asks Valve to unban Swag from the IBP scandal. Connor Bennett, Astralis’ Gla1ve Calls for CS:GO Pros Steel and Swag to Be Unbanned, Dexerto (Feb. 23, 2019, 2:52 PM), https://www.dexerto.com/csgo/astralis-gla1ve-calls-for-csgo-pros-steel-swag-be-unbanned-valve-392791/ [https://perma.cc/3KC3-PFHT].
Alan Bernal, FBI Investigating CSGO Match-Fixing with ESIC, Dexerto (Apr. 6, 2021, 4:00 PM), https://www.dexerto.com/csgo/esic-are-working-with-fbi-to-investigate-na-csgo-match-fixing-1545003/ [https://perma.cc/4PMY-PT3H].
Nevada Gaming Control Board (@NevadaGCB), Twitter (Nov. 3, 2021, 4:34 PM), https://twitter.com/NevadaGCB/status/1456011823795212289?s=20 [https://perma.cc/22C8-PAJ8].