Another StarCraft cheating scandal rocks Korea

Five years ago, the professional StarCraft community was rocked by a massive cheating scandal – now it looks like history is repeating, as twelve StarCraft II gamers have been arrested in South Korea over charges of match-fixing and illegal betting.

Those arrested include Gerrard (Park Wae-Sik), head coach of pro gaming team PRIME, and one of his team members, YoDa (Choi Byeong-Heon). Other pro-gamers – both current and former – have also faced court over the charges, as have brokers and gangsters (apparently including a former eSports journalist), but only Gerrard and YoDa have been named.

YoDa in action

YoDa in action

The games in question, according to the prosecutor’s investigation, include five professional-level StarCraft II matches, which were played between January and June 2015 including as part of the GSL Season 1 and SKT Proleague Season 1.

Pro-gamer YoDa has been accused of receiving money to deliberately lose matches, while Gerrard stands charged with receiving money from brokers, connecting players to brokers, and suggesting to players that they might like to lose a game or two and get paid. The story goes the head coach was in considerable debt, prompting him to such drastic measures.

KeSPA, the Korean eSports Association, has confirmed that both Gerrard and YoDa have been banned for life, as director Cho Man Soo released a statement (translated by Team Liquid):

Since 2010, the association has worked alongside the rest of the industry to fight against the illegal betting that has continued to threaten the foundation of e-Sports. It is extremely regrettable that a related incident has occurred again, and we apologize to all of the fans who have shown e-Sports their love and support.

And while the repercussions are huge, it looks like the money involved isn’t really all that much – Gerrard and the players apparently received between US$4,000 and US$17,000 per match (5,000,000 to 20,000,000 Korean won). Brokers reportedly took home around US$26,000, and people betting on the matches pocketed US$35,000.

Since 2013, the association has enacted regular anti-corruption education for all head coaches, coaches, and players competing in Proleague. The association also received agreements from coaching staff and players that they could be subject to measures under civil and/or criminal law should they be involved in illegal betting. Furthermore, starting in 2014, we started a program reward those who reported or confessed to illicit activities, and signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the police department’s Cyber Bureau, the Korea Communications Standards Commission, and the Korea Internet Self-governance Organization for a clean e-Sports environment.

The statement acknowledges that the gamers were arrested in late September, with the case currently under investigation. As more names are revealed, more eSports identities will be banned for life, with KeSPA promising to be “utterly uncompromising” when it comes to the investigation, working closely with the authorities to “create a healthy e-Sports culture”. The organisation has also threatened it may sue for damages “depending on the circumstances”.

It’s worth noting that this news only affects PRIME’s StarCraft II team – the League of Legends team SBENU (also run by Gerrard) remains untouched, and has been handed to the association’s stewardship for the time being.

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