In an official statement on August 11, streaming service Twitch notified their creators to take down any content that promotes online casinos. The online gambling industry has been amping up its promotional presence on the platform for the last few years.
This “gamba meta” has been growing quickly, with big-name streamers being enticed by online casinos to incorporate gambling more often on their streams.
Household name streamers such as Félix "xQc" Lengyel and Tyler "Trainwrecks" Niknam have been some among others that have agreed to partnerships, each spending hours on stream playing virtual slots. While some of these streamers have simultaneously gambled while warning their viewers of the dangers of gambling, the optics can be confusing.
These streamers are not alone in their actions, and like many other notable creators have gone back and forth on the moral and ethical dilemma of online gambling. It was reported that up to 6% of the 1000 top Twitch streamers have taken part in gambling partnerships.
Twitch is the world's leading live streaming platform that hosts more than 15 million daily active users. While the platform still holds true to its specialization in video game live streaming, the platform has seen versatile development since being acquired by Amazon in 2014.
Sponsorships and Casino Bonuses
It now promotes a large diversity of live streams, from music events to esports competitions.
The “gamba meta” has been around on the platform for some time, providing users a chance to watch streamers play various online gambling games, the most popular being slots and roulette. This meta has become more lucrative in recent years due to casino sponsorships, referral codes, and affiliate bonuses.
Some online casinos have offered such high compensation that they have convinced top streamers to leave the US and stream from locations where gambling activity is legal.
At 26 years old, Twitch streamer Matthew “Mizkif” Rinaudo was said to have been offered up to $35,000 an hour to stream online gambling. “It wasn’t my money,” Rinaudo confessed on his Twitch channel, referring to the fact that these casinos would fill his casino accounts regularly to encourage him to keep playing.
Twitch Bans Online Casino Referral Codes and Website Links
According to the official statement by Twitch to its creators:
To prevent harm and scams created by questionable gambling services that sponsor content on Twitch, we will prohibit sharing links and/or referral codes to sites that offer slots, roulette, or dice games. We will continue to monitor gambling-related content and update our approach as needed. To give you time to remove this content from your channel, enforcement will be delayed until August 17, 2021.
The statement paints a clear picture that the company is responding to fraudulent acts and scams that have been allowed to run rampant on the platform.
First and foremost, critics have been warning against the dangers of online gambling for some time. Allowing streamers to promote potentially dangerous and addictive behavior in an unregulated way. This moral and ethical dilemma has been debated from the beginning and has seen many creators calling each other out for shady behavior.
Gambling Licences and Restrictions
In addition to the moral and ethical implications, there is legality.
Online casinos are required to work within the legal infrastructure of their desired markets. Online websites in the US are required to hold licenses that are state-specific. In other words, consumers are not allowed to gamble on certain websites in certain locations.
With easy access to powerful VPN software, users are able to access online gambling sites that would otherwise be blocked by location-specific providers. This allows users from banned countries to access these websites, creating a legal grey area.
Legal entities have made it clear that online promoters, such as Twitch streamers, could potentially be held to legal accountability for promoting gambling services that do not have proper licensing.
This sort of activity and the legal implications that follow have forced Twitch to act, and they have done so by forcing creators to remove their referral and website links.
Yet some think that this policy update is not enough.
Should Twitch Ban Online Gambling Completely?
While the recent policy changes have targeted the legal implications of online gambling, many Twitch creators think that the platform needs to take a more aggressive stance.
In June, top creator Asmongold tweeted "Twitch needs to ban gambling streams full stop.
He is far from alone in this opinion, with other influential Twitch personalities such as Pokimane challenging the online gaming sponsorships and highlighting the potential consequences of the platform glorifying online gambling.
Critics continue the debate, saying that the policy changes represent a half-measure that still allows users the ability to circumnavigate the restrictions. Workarounds such as Linktree are already commonplace, and the lack of age restrictions on gaming channels continues to pose a threat to underage users.
Even though the policy changes might not be the outright ban that many critics hoped for, there is an agreement that the pressure put on creators to take down referral links and associated affiliate partnerships might encourage online casinos to pull back some of the offerings.
If the referral links stop, Twitch streams are unlikely to continue to promote online gambling on the platform as they no longer have a revenue stream.
Criticism on the Gambling Streams
However, critics also understand that online casinos still have ways of enticing streamers at their disposal. These include providing the streamers with gambling funds, paying salaries, or finding other ways of distributing referral links.
Critics can only hope that Twitch walks the walk and lives up their promise to “continue to monitor gambling-related content and update our approach as needed.” This could potentially mean more steps coming into play if the desired result is not achieved.
We can assume that there are some big reasons why the platform has yet to ban online gambling content.
Despite the fact that the online gambling streams are wildly popular and garner millions of views if done properly gambling is legal. When streamers and online casinos take the necessary steps, they can operate legally within certain locations. By implementing a total ban, Twitch would be making a stand on an activity that is legal.
This idea of policing legality combined with a large incentive to continue the “gamba meta” due to popularity could contribute to Twitch currently avoiding an outright ban.
How Do Streamers Make Money from Online Gambling Sites?
There are a few ways that Twitch streamers can make money from promoting gambling sites. By banning both referral links and website links, Twitch hopes to stop these main forms of compensation from being possible.
When a streamer is approached by an online casino, they are often given a specific referral code which can be tracked by the casino to see how many viewers clicked on the link. Various referral bonus structures exist, from streamers getting a flat rate per click to a percentage of a customer's gambling deposit.
Referral bonuses are used widely in the online gaming industry, and when done properly can promote responsible gaming with credible online casinos. These online casinos will be properly accredited, licensed, and held accountable to local and state restrictions.
However, referral bonuses can also come from unaccredited and illegal entities, which can lead to scams or legal ramifications for the consumers.
Another way that streamers can receive compensation from online casinos is in the form of sponsorship. This often means that the casino will pay the streamer a certain amount of money to stream their games for a predetermined time.
Referral codes are often still given to the streamer, or the agreement stipulates the streamer must post the site link and entice users to click on it and gamble themselves.
On top of salaries, online casinos will further incentivize streamers by giving them credit to gamble with. So not only are these streamers making an income, but they are gambling with someone else's money and keeping the winnings.
This strategy is criticized as an over-glorification of online gambling and has also resulted in multiple streamers quitting the game for fear that they had become addicted.
French Canadian streamer Felix ‘xQc’ Lengyel stopped all gambling streams saying “I get addicted to things very, very easily. I noticed that my brain is kind of going crazy so I have to stop.” He has since gone on to become a leading voice in the anti-gambling Twitch movement.
What's Next For Twitch and Online Gambling?
The recent developments have reassured users that Twitch does not condone illegal gambling, but also shows a hesitation by the platform to ban gambling altogether. At the moment, the “gamba meta” is popular among streamers, and an outright ban would be bad for viewership.
As the platform evaluates its stance on gambling, it may continue to evolve these restrictions. Yet at the moment, critics and proponents of online gambling via the platform are both waiting to see what happens.
For the time being, streamers have until August 17, 2021, to remove all referral links and online gambling website links from their content.
Here at Viabonus.com, we will continue to keep our readers up to date on the policy changes and aim to provide unbiased and trustworthy analysis. While we are proponents of online gambling, we aim to provide safe and reputable opportunities for users to have fun and gamble responsibly.