Match-fixing in any sport is a serious problem. Not only is the competitive integrity undermined for the sport, potentially tainting an entire generation of players, but there are also serious economic ramifications too. This is understandably directly damaging to bet-makers and those placing sports bets but has more far-reaching effects. Many major sports, including soccer, horse racing, and cricket, have had some match-fixing scandals in recent years. The new kid on the block, esports, has been no exception either. A new potential scandal is unfolding involving one of the biggest esports, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). One of the best players from the famous Cloud9 team, Abay “HObbit” Khasenov, is under investigation following a match-fixing accusation from a former teammate.
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Although esports is one of the newer sports on the scene, like its predecessors, it has been unable to escape the match-fixing plague. This has not only damaged the credibility of certain esports and teams. As viewers become sceptical of games, it has also caused some current and would-be esports investors out of the scene. It might come as a relief to some that these latest allegations surrounding HObbit are from 7 years ago. According to the evidence provided by HObbit’s former teammate, Rustam “5TRYK#R” Alimkulov, it seems to be partially resolved and largely in the past. Crucially though, HObbit and the other guilty teammates seemed to avoid any real punishment.
The team was apparently banned from the sports betting platform they tried to defraud and fell apart later after limited competitive esport success. HObbit, however, managed to rise through the CS:GO ranks to remain a fixture of several top tier esports teams. Although HObbit denies the allegations stating, “All that I have achieved, I earned with my hard work and perseverance. My reputation is above all to me.” There is an ongoing investigation by the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) that may severely impact HObbit’s career. Still, if he is found guilty, the question for many is what will the wider consequences be?
Will this scandal rock CS:GO or the wider esports industry?
Could the results of this investigation affect the CS:GO esport as a whole or even affect other esports? We certainly hope not, and provided this was not systemic of a wider problem, the CS:GO esport scene, and esports betting sites are unlikely to be strongly affected. The fact that the allegations are centered on events 7 years ago helps – with how fast esports are developing, this length of time is probably worth about 20-30 years in sports. Regardless, we hope that the results of HObbit’s investigation, no matter the result, lead to more controls and checks to prevent match-fixing. The esports betting market in the USA is growing and thriving, but events like this could slow this significantly. This would be terrible news for both esports enthusiasts and bettors alike.