Illegal Chinese esports betting sites creep into Korea, affecting pro players in their solo queue climb

Image via Riot Games Flickr

 

In China, illegal esports betting sites have been rising in popularity for years, allowing people to wager on the outcome of an esports match, similar to that of traditional sports betting sites. But if previously betting sites would exclusively focus on esports matches, they have have now expanded to allow users to bet on famous pro gamers’ and popular streamers’ solo queue games.

 

The victims of these illegal betting sites are not only limited to pro players in China, but also pros in Korea as well. An insider in Chinese esports commented that Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, who’s the mid laner for T1 and arguably the most popular pro gamer in the world, has his solo queue games up for wagers, a category in itself that’s one of the most popular on these sites. This is because, since a lot of people place bets on his solo queue games, the betting odds don’t sway too heavily.

 

For more insight on how these illegal websites were run, Inven decided to access some of these websites. However, ever since this controversy came to light, most of these illegal websites were either inaccessible from a Korean IP address or had limited access at best.

 

One of the illegal gambling sites that restricted access from a Korean IP address

 

However, with the help of an industry insider in China, Inven was able to gain access to some of these sites. On one of the websites, there were two main categories on the top, esports & streams, and underneath it, subcategories were organized by game categories, some of which include League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike. 

 

When we clicked the stream category, we were able to find the likes of the solo queue games from popular names such as China’s legendary bot laner, Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, and TOP Esports’ bot laner, Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-bo, being used for illegal gambling purposes. Not only did the site provide betting odds on the outcome and game timer, but it even also allowed users to watch these solo queue games through their website. Other Korean and Chinese pro players/streamers were listed as well, with bets being actively placed on their solo queue games.

 

With the help of an insider from China, we were able to see how this was being operated

 

Amidst the copious amount of problems that arise from these illegal websites, the biggest one lies outside the concept of "gambling". When big money’s involved, match-fixing is something that people naturally participate in. While official matches can only be fixed by players themselves, match-fixing becomes a lot easier for these streamed solo queue matches, due to the fact that anyone that plays on the same tier as these players can be swayed into match-fixing.

 

 

In Korea, there are a lot of Chinese users that play on the Korean server. The Korean server restricts account creation without an RRN (Resident Registration Number) in Korea, so apart from the pro players that may have access to Korean accounts through Riot, Chinese users buy accounts to play on the Korean server. As these illegal betting sites are rising in popularity in China, it’s easy to deduce that there are definitely those with ill intent. Regardless of nationality, the fact that any users that play on similar tiers of these pros/streamers can potentially participate in match-fixing is one of the major concerns that come from this.

 

Riot China has been tackling this issue with great concern for many years but brought back little success. Most of these illegal gambling sites, just like any other illegal sites, operate from overseas, not bound by Chinese law, so it makes it impossible for the Chinese government to shut them down. Countries that are in a war against illegal gambling suffer from the same issue, as the respective governments from these countries are continued to be left helpless.

 

 

So what measures has Riot Korea been taking? They commented:

 

“We’re aware of the match-fixing from some foreign users that are in relation with these Chinese illegal betting sites, and the act of tampering with the outcome of solo queue matches are unacceptable, especially those of LCK pro players. Ever since we became aware of this issue, we’re actively cooperating with the LPL to not promote these websites on their platform, with the ultimate goal of shutting all these illegal gambling sites down.”

 

Furthermore, they stated:

 

“As one of the short-term measures to the ongoing battle against these illegal websites, Riot Korea will implement the creation of a hotline for LCK pro players, where they can easily get in contact with Riot, should they run into users that are suspicious of intentional match-fixing. We’re actively discussing various Long-term solutions, so we’ll provide an update as soon as some of those solutions are ready.”

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