Popular streaming platform, Twitch, may have a gambling problem.
Following an explosive exposé piece by Bloomberg, the Amazon-owned business finds itself in the public’s crosshairs. Gambling content has erupted on the platform recently – but not everyone is all in.
Critics argue Twitch’s younger audience makes the content inappropriate, predatory and irresponsible.
Despite that, massive gambling sponsorships deals – often in the millions per month – have swayed some content creators to forge ahead.
Add in a war of words between some of the platform’s biggest names, and you have the biggest Twitch drama of 2022. For its part, in 2021, the broadcasting service changed its terms of service surrounding the activity.
But more needs to be done, say Twitch’s detractors.
Twitch reports it is currently doing a “deep-dive” into the matter. More changes could be on the horizon.
Database shows gambling content in Twitch’s Top-10 categories
Twitch’s bread and butter is video game live streaming.
And its representatives, in the Bloomberg article, were adamant this remains the case today.
“We take any potential harm to our community extremely seriously. While gambling content represents a very small fraction of the content streamed on Twitch, we monitor it closely to ensure our approach mitigates potential harm to our global community.”
However, for a “minor” problem, gambling on Twitch has produced significant consequences.
Nowadays, some of the platform’s top streamers – who initially gained notoriety through gaming content – are backed by casino websites. That meant more gambling streams, a shift in viewership and a ripple effect throughout the Twitch verse.
The change has been quick, rocky and – perhaps even – unexpected.
Consider, at the time of publication, “slots” is ranked #9 on Twitch’s most-watched games category – ahead of popular games Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone.
Yet slots still has no profile pic uploaded.
Twitch: 75% of viewers between 16 – 34
The main problem is viewership (related to gambling, anyway).
Twitch claims 75% of its viewers are between the ages of 16 and 34.
In Canada and the United States, the legal gambling age is, generally speaking, 18. However, this does vary slightly in certain provinces and states.
Regardless, critics argue gambling is taking over too much of the platform. They raise serious concerns over the number of adolescents, underage children, and vulnerable adults on Twitch’s platform.
Gambling – if not done responsibly – can lead to serious addiction, financial hardships and the overall downturn of one’s life. And the consequences of gambling are even less understood by younger audiences.
To that end, critics created a Change.org petition to pressure big businesses like PepsiCo Inc., Burger King, McDonald’s (and more) to pull the plug on Twitch. They want the companies to reconsider advertising on the platform. Currently, the petition stands at nearly 2,500 signatures.
Link sharing and referral codes banned, but Twitch gambling still surging
To its credit, Twitch did respond in August 2021. The website updated its terms of service by banning link sharing and referral codes to sites that offer slots, roulette or dice games.
Nonetheless, a year later, gambling has continued to surge in record fashion.
Since its creation in 2011, Twitch has always been known as a top-heavy platform. A select few personalities dominate the domain. They account for the share of watch time hours, and they are who the world associates with the streaming service.
Gambling websites know this. It’s no surprise that casinos have targeted some of Twitch’s biggest names with lucrative sponsorships.
Adin Ross, who holds 6.4 million followers, is one example. Leaked messages show the 21-year-old is getting paid nearly $4 million each month from one gambling sponsor.
Meanwhile, Tyler “Trainwreckstv” Niknam scoffed at the notion of him only receiving $1 million per month from his sponsor. According to Nikham, the amount is “much more.”
Crypto casino, Stake, fueling Twitch’s gambling boom
Behind nearly all of these cash infusions? Crypto-based casino and sports betting platform, Stake.
Canadians – and perhaps the rest of the world – may know the crypto casino best for its highly publicized partnership with Drake.
But in the Twitch world, its tentacles stretch much wider.
Alongside Ross and Niknam, Canadian Felix “xQc” Lengyel is another well-known streamer going all in. The top streamer – with 11.1 million followers – said he bet $119 million on Stake.
The irony is that crypto gambling is illegal in Canada and the United States. However, devote gamblers can circumvent this inconvenience with a VPN.
Stake is an illegal platform in Canada since it operates in the Bitcoin space. According to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, such bets are not regulated or legal at Ontario online casinos and sportsbooks. Plus, only provinces can offer Canada online gambling in their regions, and crypto transactions are a no-go all over.
Drake, it seems, has some explaining to do.
Multiple Twitch streamers develop gambling addictions
Beyond the legality, perhaps the more significant issue is the morality of Stake-sponsored streaming.
Gambling streams aren’t just a brief break in an everyday gaming stream. Gambling has become the main event – thanks to gambling sponsors. Streamers are injected with millions of dollars monthly to play with, creating a disproportionate reality for viewers.
Sometimes gambling broadcasts – sans age restriction – can reach as high as 100,000 viewers.
Unsurprisingly, some streamers have fallen on hard times. xQc and Ludwig have already openly admitted to gambling addictions. Meanwhile, it is highly suspected Trainwreck – one of the most aggressive gamblers on the site – is suffering adverse effects.
The risks are very clear, and gambling for prolonged periods is unhealthy.
Canadian streamer, Pokimane, against Twitch gambling
But just as gambling streams can harm impressionable minds, not everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid. Multiple high-profile Twitch streamers have openly denounced gambling on the platform.
Some notable names include:
- Asmongold (3.3M followers)
- moistcr1tikal (4.4M)
- Hasan Abi (2.2M)
- Pokimane (9.2M)
Of all of them, Imane “Pokimane” Anys likely had the greatest impact.
The Canadian is currently the most-followed female streamer on the platform and was critical, via live stream, in her assessment.
“Let’s be honest: If you’re getting an offer from a casino sponsorship, you’re already a multi-millionaire. You need to be a multi-multi-millionaire?
I feel like once you get to a certain point of wealth, you have so many options available to you to generate more income.”
Twitch has always had elements of gambling
Of course, the big question here is money.
A lot of it is coming to streamers – and by extension – Twitch. Should gambling be banned, Twitch risks its influencers moving along.
Indeed, websites like Stake will be ready to pounce. The site already has a separate section devoted to its partnership with Drake.
On the other hand, Twitch could lose a ton of credibility among users should the gambling streams go unabated.
Another caveat here is to what extent Twitch will – if at all – silence gambling. After all, video games have always had some risky elements present (see loot boxes).
Will these be next? No one can be certain as of yet.
But one thing is guaranteed: millions – of all ages – will be impacted s by Twitch’s response.