StarCraft ‘SuperStar’ Lee ‘Life’ Seung Hyun, whose arrest for match-fixing has shocked the esports world.
A Korean police report into a StarCraft match-fixing scandal makes depressing reading for followers of esports and the nascent betting industry that is growing up around professional video gaming.
In January, Lee ‘Life’ Seung Hyun, 19, the 2014 world champion and 2015 runner-up, was arrested by authorities on suspicion of throwing matches to benefit a betting syndicate.
He was indicted over the weekend along with another top player, Bung ‘Bbyong’ Woo Yong, 23, and eight others, including financial backers and brokers. Seung Hyun is accused of throwing two matches during the KeSPA Cup, for which he received $60,000 from the gambling ring. Woo Yong has been charged with throwing one match, in January, for around $26,000.
The prosecutor’s report describes in detail how the deals went down. The two players were approached by brokers who initially pretended to be fans and who persuaded them to throw the matches on behalf of their financial backers.
‘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 gambling sites,’ said the report.
The ring placed multiple bets on the fixed games on multiple online gambling sites. The largest individual bet on the crooked matches was around $87,000.
Esports, it seems, is particularly vulnerable to match-fixing because of the relative low prize money on offer to its top players, particularly in smaller tournaments, when compared with world class athletes in major sports. As editor of Teamliquid.net Kwanghee Woo tweeted this week, ‘the fee to throw matches in the KeSPA Cup was seven times the prize money for first place.’
System Encourages Cheating
Meanwhile, esports journalist Rob Zacny pointed out in an article for kotaku.com that because prize money in esports is so top heavy and ‘winner-takes-all,’ players are almost encouraged to cheat in order to mitigate risk.
‘There may not be enough money to go around StarCraft to create a financial incentive to resist gambling rings. But right now, it feels like StarCraft is drowning in gambling money, and the compensation for all but the winning players is so poor that a broker’s offer could look like a very attractive way of mitigating risk,’ he said.
‘What is losing a single game in the round of 32 or 16 next to $30,000, when most players would be lucky to get a quarter of that playing honestly? And when the math is skewed that badly towards cheating, how do you clean up the game?’
Esports, it seems, has a very big match-fixing problem, and the indictments this week were the latest in a long line of high-profile scandals. Depressingly, the players themselves, according to the prosecutor’s report, were ultimately persuaded to come on board with the scheme because the brokers told them ‘everyone is doing it.’
Bookies Find 48 Suspicious Tennis Matches in First Three Months of Year
Australian pro Nick Lindhal, who was found to have thrown matches by an Australian Court. The Tennis Integrity Unit says suspicious incidents are on the rise. (Image: radionz.co.nz)
The Tennis Integrity Unit has been notified by the gambling industry of 48 instances of suspicious betting patterns on matches in the first quarter of the year alone, the anti-corruption body said this week.
The TIU itself has come under criticism for a perceived failure to investigate and sanction players who have been suspected of throwing matches. The tennis world was rocked by scandal in January when documents passed to the BBC and Buzzfeed News by anonymous whistleblowers reported that 16 top-level players have been strongly suspected of rigging matches over the past ten years.
According to the two news outlets, the players, who had all ranked in the top 50 in the world and even included Grand Slam title winners, had been repeatedly flagged to the TIU, which had apparently failed to take any action.
Increase on Last Year
As such, the unit has come under increasing pressure to offer more transparency on it methods and processes, and the announcement this week is the first of a new series of quarterly public briefings on the progression of its investigations.
The unit said that the 48 alerts represented an increase on the same period last year when just 31 suspicious instances were reported. However, it emphasized that these figures represent just 0.2 percent of the 24,110 matches that were played during the three months of 2016.
‘Every alert received by the TIU is assessed and followed up as an indicator that something inappropriate may have happened,’ added the unit, although it decline to say whether the bookies’ tip-offs had led to any concrete evidence of corruption.
Suspect Match at Australian Open
Of the 48 matches under investigation, said the TIU, one occurred at the Australian Open and one on the WTA Tour, while the rest took place at Challengers or Futures tournaments, which would appear to confirm the idea that most corruption takes place in lower-level matches.
It also provided an update on the progress of a major review of anti-corruption measures within the sport, launched by the Association of Tennis Professionals, the World Tennis Association, the International Tennis Federation and the Grand Slam Board in the wake of the BBC/Buzzfeed leak. The review is also examining the efficacy of the TIU itself.
‘Under the leadership of Adam Lewis QC, the work of the panel to date has included preliminary meetings with the sport’s governing bodies, collation of core documents and contact with persons of interest to obtain relevant information,’ said the TIU.
‘In addition, the panel has identified a list of issues and areas of inquiry and begun a further schedule of interviews and research.’
Tom Brady’s Four-Game Suspension Reinstated by Appeals Court, Vegas Reacts
The NFL can ban Tom Brady for the first four games of the regular season after a federal appeals court panel ruled 2-1 in favor of the league. (Image: Charles Krupa /Associated Press)
Tom Brady won’t be under center for the New England Patriots’ first four games of the NFL regular season after a federal appeals court ruled on Monday that the four-game suspension for his ‘Deflategate’ involvement initially levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was just.
The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that Goodell ‘properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded . . . and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court.’
The NFL alleges that Brady knowingly tampered with air pressure of footballs used during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January of 2015. Circuit Judges Denny Chin and Barrington Parker ruled in favor of the NFL, while Chief Judge Robert Katzmann dissented for Brady.
The NFL said in a statement, ‘We are pleased the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled today that the Commissioner properly exercised his authority under the collective bargaining agreement. . . That authority has been recognized by many courts and has been expressly incorporated into every collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association for the past 40 years.’
Vegas Downgrades Pats
Oddsmakers in Nevada quickly adjusted their lines to reflect the federal court’s ruling.
CG Technology, a sports wagering company whose partners include with The Venetian, Palazzo, Tropicana, Hard Rock, and Palms, moved New England from 6-1 to 8-1 to win the Super Bowl. Even with the slight demotion, the Pats are still the NFL favorites along with the Seattle Seahawks according to CG.
The Bovada thinks the Brady suspension could have a more impactful consequence. The online sportsbook has dropped the Patriots behind the Seahawks to win Super Bowl LI, with Seattle at +850 to New England at +900.
As for total regular season wins, Brady’s squad is also now predicted to win half a game less. The majority of books have the Patriots win line at 10 games, down from 10.5.
New England plays at Arizona to begin its season on September 11, then enjoys three home games against Miami, Houston, and Buffalo. The Patriots remain favored at the Gillette Stadium matchups, though their favoritism has decreased three to four points in each.
Though the ball is now squarely in Goodell’s field, the NFL commissioner hasn’t yet publicly revealed whether he’ll reinstate the ban on Brady. The league doesn’t necessarily have to revert to its previous ruling, and Goodell hasn’t commented on ‘Deflategate’ since before Super Bowl 50.
Most analysts believe Goodell will indeed take advantage of the rights now afforded to him by the two appellate judges. Brady could once again appeal the decision, but it would need to be taken up by the full 2nd Circuit Court in a rare ‘en banc’ hearing or be accepted by the US Supreme Court, both seemingly unlikely outcomes.
The most probable next step is that Brady accepts the punishment and the Patriots begin preparing backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the four biggest games of his career.
Obama Warning to UK Lengthens Odds on Brexit
Obama’s comments on ‘Brexit,’ the proposed UK exit from the European Union have caused a flurry of activity in the betting markets. (Image: theglobandmail.com)
President Obama’s declaration that the UK would be ‘in the back of the queue’ for a trade deal with the United States should it choose to leave the EU appears to have had a dramatic effect on the betting markets.
The UK is set for a referendum on the question of whether to stick around in Europe, or go it alone and ‘Brexit,’ on June 23. And it seems the ‘Leave’ campaign’s argument that the UK doesn’t need to be part of a special European trade agreement in order to prosper has been dealt a major blow by the president’s comments.
The bookies, who have a knack of predicting these things, have had the ‘Remain’ campaign as credible favorites all of the way. President Obama’s surprisingly forthright remark despite his few remaining months in office and the upcoming election for the next president of the United States has added an extra 10 percent to the odds that Britain will remain in the EU.
The latest polls claim the voting is neck and neck, indicating that Britain’s future hangs in the balance, and could be hugely dependent on the 1 in 5 voters who claim they are undecided. But polls are unreliable, and the generally more truthful bookies say the odds are far from 50/50, but more like 70/30 in favor of ‘Remain.’
”Remain’ was already a strong favorite before Barack Obama’s visit, but his comments sparked another wave of trading over the weekend with ‘Remain’ now backed into 1/3,’ James Midmer, a spokesman for Betfair told Reuters this week, adding that the ‘Remain’ vote was now higher than it had been since September 2015.
So what do bookmakers have that pollsters don’t when it comes to predicting the outcome of political events? Well, a bigger sample size, for one, and according to Betfair the Brexit vote might even offer the largest sample size of betting on any political event ever.
‘The market could eclipse Betfair’s record for traded volume for a single political market; £3.5 million ($5 million) has been matched in the last week alone,’ said Midmer.
People Bet How They Vote
Betting markets also tend to be more truthful, simply because bettors tend to me more truthful than respondents to surveys. They put their money where their mouths are and usually bet on outcomes they would like to see happen. In short, they bet how they vote.
Poll respondents lie for a number of reasons. Maybe they are reluctant to admit to pollsters that they haven’t bothered to register to vote, for example, or perhaps they are just plain embarrassed of the party or politician they actually support.
And all this means that the smart money is on the UK staying in Europe come June 23.