The Korean betting situation and mysterious sponsors
Our deputy manager Olivia recently posted some allegations involving online events and the illegal Korean betting scene. Here's a basic explanation of how things are working and the behavior we have observed in online tournaments involving Korean players.
1) There is a great deal of illegal betting going on in Korea and SC2 is a prime candidate for it since it has plenty of small online events with little to no oversight what-so-ever. You might think "who cares if they bet?". Sure, I get that. I'm not against gambling, but the problem is what comes next.
2) These bets are happening fast, in real time. Bets are being collected right up until game start. Problem is, streams are running 5-10 minute delays, so the game actually started much earlier before bets closed. So what's the problem?
3) Problem 1. Korean betters are attempting and often succeeding in gaining access to information they should not have, in order to make bets with a much higher chance of success. They do this in a few ways.
a) Harassing players, admins and casters for information and in the worst cases, offering money to throw matches. We have no idea how many players if any have thrown maps in this way, but what we do know is that players are constantly approached to do it. MMA recently deleted his Facebook account because he kept getting messages from Korean betters. Progamers in Korea are being pestered by these people constantly.
b) Actually getting into the game lobby by pretending to be a caster, admin or translator. Now here is where the REALLY murky stuff is happening.
4) Problem 2: A lot of these smaller tournaments online are getting mysterious "sponsors" from Korea. They almost never list a company or product that's sponsoring the event, but they have prizepools of $1-2k that come from a mysterious benefactor. More often than not these are Korean betters and they give the money in return to access to the game. These events often require than an "admin" will be in the game. That admin is either a better himself or is feeding information to a selection of betters, bypassing the stream delay. How deep this goes remains to be seen. It's entirely feasible that these people are also approaching players to fix matches.
This is the current situation. It's not well known amongst foreign fans and players because it's happening in the Korean online scene and of course the language barrier is a huge thing. There's even a certain risk involved at big events, because some of these tournaments are doing a poor job policing who gets into lobbies. You've seen the results from spammers shitposting in allchat during a game, but what happens when one of those people isnt a spammer but is involved in Korean betting, feeding information to betters and potentially encouraging matchfixing? Matchfixing in small online events can be highly profitable. The prizepool is just small enough to where a player might consider throwing a match because they stand to make more that way. That's not even going into the possibility that players might bet on their own games via proxy... It's all really murky stuff.
What's the solution? Well as far as I'm concerned tournament organizers need to account for where the money is coming from. Players and viewers should be suspicious of tournaments that cannot accurately account for the source of their funding. Smaller streamers looking to make a name for themselves are naturally very tempted to take funds from unknown sources to put on an event, but they must be very aware of the possibility that these sponsors are in it for dodgy reasons. Outside of that I can't think of a great solution I'm afraid. It's going on in Korea underground and it's very hard to stop.