Yes, Twitch is banning gambling. But it’s not as tough as it seems.

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After a whirlwind week that started with a Twitch streamer scamming his fans and other creators out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and only escalated from there, Twitch has finally cracked down on gambling. But after initially celebrating an outright ban, streamers are beginning to realize that Twitch’s language isn’t as ironclad as it seems.

Twitch is a live streaming platform owned by Amazon with an audience of around 31 million visitors per day. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) The site has long turned a blind eye to gambling streams, in which streamers functionally advertise gambling websites to an audience that skews young: twitch says nearly 75 percent of its viewers are between the ages of 16 and 34. About 6 to 9 percent of youth had problem gambling compared to 1 percent of adults, according to the National Center for Responsible Gaming.

In a tweet posted Tuesday night, Twitch announced that, beginning in October, it will “prohibit the streaming of gambling sites that include slots, roulette, or dice games that are not licensed in the US or other jurisdictions that provide sufficient consumer protection.” Such sites include Stake.com, Rollbit.com, Duelbits.com and Roobet.com according to the announcement, all of which were associated with popular Twitch streamers or had a presence on the platform. The tweet included an exception for websites focused on sports betting, fantasy sports, and poker.

This is a huge blow to casino-style gambling, which has become big business on Twitch in recent years. The formula is simple: Streamers visit a gambling website and exchange real money for cryptocurrencies, which they can wager on simple games of chance like slots and roulette. Viewers tune in to experience the thrill of being a high roller vicariously, with rich streamers throwing down tens or hundreds of thousands, and sometimes more, to very occasionally earn millions.

Ninja and Pokimane, two of Twitch’s biggest stars, fly co-op

Already in 2018, the Twitch casino section contained numerous channels of questionable reputation, some of which inflated their viewership numbers with bots to advertise specific slot game websites. Over time, this evolved into a more influencer-driven strategy, with the relative success of longtime slot streamers like Ishmael “Roshstein” Swartz. attract bigger names like gamer-turned-gamer Tyler “Trainwrecks” Niknam and Twitch king Felix “xQc” Lengyel.

Sites like Stake struck deals with cultivated Twitch personalities like Niknam and Lengyel, and Niknam said he attracts more than $1 million per month just from your stake sponsorship. Another regular punter, Adin Ross, apparently receives almost as much per week. Even Drake, the rapper, sprung into action with his own participation agreement for an undisclosed sum.

For a time, streamers combined those sponsorships with links to betting sites and referral codes; Twitter forbidden those extra methods of advertising and making money last year. This change stemmed from a staff-led move to reduce gambling on the platform, according to former Twitch employees who chose to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. The ban ultimately did little to curtail gambling.

Many streamers have grown uncomfortable with gambling’s increasingly prominent place on the platform, seeing streams as a gateway to real-money gambling for impressionable viewers already familiar with the game-inspired mechanics. gambling in games like “Counter-Strike”, “Genshin Impact” and the like. and the Ultimate Team mode of the FIFA series, among others.

Also, there is another bigger problem: some streamers are breaking the law by staking, given that crypto staking is illegal in the United States. To get around this, Niknam first used a virtual private network to fake being in another country; when even that proved untenable, he uprooted his life and moved to Canadawhere online gambling laws are less strict, in 2021. There, he continued to gamble on Twitch almost every day while swearing that everyone else should. No yes In January, he said he was “down” $12.9 million because of the game.

Nonetheless, he and others like Lengyel who claim to have become “addicted” are standing firm, hoping their warnings and charitable efforts like niknam association with Rise Above The Disorder, a mental health-focused nonprofit, will be enough to offset the damage caused by his lucrative but destructive career turns. It’s a move mirrored by entities in the sports betting space like the NFL, which poured $6 million into the National Council on Problem Gambling despite partnering with sports betting sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. With Twitch, the effectiveness of this approach is debatable. in August, Bloomberg published a report on Twitch viewers who have lost tens of thousands of dollars on gambling sites after watching their favorite streamers try their luck day after day.

As sports betting goes mainstream, addiction experts are on high alert

All of this culminated in a week of pure chaos on Twitch. On Saturday, a streamer who goes by the name ItsSliker (who has not made his real name public) admitted borrowing money from other streamers — including big names like political pundit Hasan “HasanAbi” Piker and Niknam — under false pretenses, claiming his bank account had been frozen or his Twitch payments hadn’t come in and he just needed money to stay afloat. He didn’t pay his friends back for months or years; he had bet around $200,000.

during a stream of confessionsItsSliker said it got its start in the popular competitive shooter “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” which contains cosmetic weapon skins and real-money-value items that third-party sites use as casino chips. For him, this was a funnel into sports betting, in which he spent “basically all” of the money he earned through Twitch.

“I deserve punishment. Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I don’t know what to say to the people I borrowed from.”

Despite the fact that ItsSliker’s apparent addiction was centered on sports betting, the rise of which has worried addiction experts since a 2018 Supreme Court decision made it a state-by-state issue and which remains allowed on Twitch, his admission sparked another community-wide discussion about the casino. Potential impacts of style gambling on impressionable viewers. Top streamers Imane “Pokimane” Anys and Matthew “Mizkif” Rinaudo, along with agency head and industry insider Devin Nash, ended up discussing a possible solution during a Sunday broadcast: to rally other top creators to boycott Twitch during Christmas week, a particularly profitable time for the company.

The resulting clip caught fire on Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube, sparking a series of increasingly incendiary debates that culminated in Rinaudo saying that Niknam should be banned from Twitch, at which point Niknam responded: alleging that Rinaudo had previously covered up a sexual assault case perpetrated by one of his friends against another streamer. One True King, the streamer-led gaming organization that Rinaudo co-owns, suspended it on Tuesday night and promised a third-party investigation. Rinaudo, for his part, has issued an apology.

amide further away increasingly personal vilification Among the big names sparked by this conflict, which the public ate ​​up with voyeuristic glee on Twitch and Twitter, as well as the 1.5 million-user Livestreamfail subreddit, Twitch made its announcement. Gambling Beneficiaries as Ross did not take the news wellwhile others like any other stingy celebrated on Twitter. In August, Twitch told Bloomberg that he was in the midst of a “deep look at the behavior of the game”. But when asked by The Washington Post what that investigation found and how much it influenced this week’s rule change, as opposed to recent protests from big-name streamers, a Twitch spokesperson said the company’s rule change announcement it would be his only statement on the matter. For the time being.

Twitch streamers traumatized after four ‘hits’ in one week

But just because Twitch’s policy update looks like a ban and talks like a ban, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a ban.

“You will soon realize that gambling is not prohibited on Twitch; only sites that do not comply with US regulations will be removed on October 18.” said Twitch star turned YouTube streamer Ben “DrLupo” Lupo.

“Unfortunately, with these updates, slots, roulette, and craps can still live on Twitch, only in their watered-down form on US-licensed websites,” Nash told The Washington Post, noting that even Stake has a real money US version to play with. “The good news is that we may see more consumer protections built in from those websites, but the bad news is that gambling is still here to stay, even with the updated policy. Twitch still needs to work harder to recognize the harm gambling does to its audience and take a full stand against luck-based gambling.”

However, that could prove difficult given the increasing normalization of the game in the United States. Gambling-like mechanics are prominent in popular video games, and Twitch’s parent company, Amazon, has dabbled in gambling, including a multi-year partnership with sports betting site DraftKings as part of his $13 billion Thursday Night Football deal with the NFL.

Christine Reilly, senior director of research at the International Center for Responsible Gaming, believes what happens next will depend on Twitch.

“There is very little research on the relationship between illegal gambling and gaming disorder,” he said. “Restricting access to sites that are regulated could be helpful, but consumer protections tend to vary in the online space. I would be interested to know how [Twitch] defines consumer protection — make [gambling sites] allow customers to self-exclude, track transactions and send warning messages if excessive gambling is detected, or provide information on how to get help with problem gambling?

Nash also believes the ball is now in Twitch’s court, but that streamers and viewers should be ready to catch it when it’s returned to them.

“As it is currently worded, this doesn’t even come close to a gambling ban based on luck,” he said sadly. “We must hold Twitch as a platform accountable for doing the right thing, as they only seem to respond to extraordinary pressure.”

Yes, Twitch is banning gambling. But it’s not as tough as it seems.

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