The Hypocrisy of Nickmercs

He may care about 'leaving the children alone' when it comes to LGBTQ education. But his new deal with a shady gambling site brings to question: Does he actually care?

On the eve of Amazon-owned platform Twitch’s big annual convention, TwitchCon, its biggest rival in the past half-decade made a big announcement: It had signed one of Twitch's most-watched streamers to a $10 million deal.

With more than one million watch hours on Twitch in September alone, Nick “Nickmercs” Kolcheff is now instead focused mostly on Kick, a new platform that has made noise throughout 2023 for signing some of the most-watched and most-controversial streamers from other platforms.

Kick brokered a $100 million, non-exclusive deal with Félix “xQc” Lengyel, often the most-watched streamer on Twitch. The next day, it announced a deal with Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa, Twitch’s most-watched female streamer and the No. 1-subscribed-to model on OnlyFans.

But Kick has also waded into the underbelly of streamer culture, signing highly-controversial streamer Adin Ross, who has platformed everyone from misogynistic influencer Andrew Tate to white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

Kick has made a name for itself in the past year for offering a financially unsustainable 95-5 split with creators of all sizes. (Twitch’s, by comparison, is 50-50.) Kick, to its credit, has surfaced a handful of new influencers who were lost in the Twitch TV Guide-like discovery system. But its seemingly endless pot of money comes from one of the most unregulated and shady places on the internet: crypto gambling.

As a part of his deal, Nickmercs said that he’ll be gambling on Stake, the sister company to Kick (both have the same founder and CEO). One of Kick’s community managers has said that the deals with Kick and Stake are separate, but even more telling, xQc—who has also worked with Stake—said that in negotiations, Nickmercs specifically asked for a gambling deal with Stake.

This is where the hypocrisy begins.

The last time Nickmercs made big headlines was for responding on Twitter to a video of peaceful LGBTQ+ demonstrators being attacked while advocating for a California school board to vote in favor of recognizing Pride Month. Seven days into Pride in June, Nickmercs responded, “They should leave little children alone. That’s the real issue.”

The next few days saw controversy and uproar on social media for that remark, including among employees of Call of Duty maker Activision, which had partnered with Nickmercs for a character skin made in his likeness. Amid the controversy, Activision removed Nickmercs’ skin.

In his response, Nickmercs said that his tweet wasn’t “anti-gay” and that he wasn’t advocating against discussions of sexuality with children. But rather, he believes that he and his wife—who had become parents shortly before the controversy began—should be the ones to educate their family about identity.

But that doesn’t erase what his comment was in response to—as peaceful demonstrators were attacked by crazed individuals seeking to pick a fight for what they believed in. And the line, “leave little children alone,” has a particular history with homophobia and transphobia.

There’s a reason Stake uses crypto, rather than fiat currency, and that boils down to verification, or in this case, lack thereof. Crypto wallets are used for many purposes, both legitimate and illegitimate, and they often don’t require personal identification. This allows for anyone to gamble on Stake, regardless of how old they are, and now Nickmercs is advertising to his impressionable audience, likely consisting of a not-insignificant number of minors, a dangerous vice.

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So does he care about children? Or does he not?

I don’t think Nickmercs is some devout bigot who spends his time crawling through the nastiest parts of the internet. It’s far more likely that he’s like so many people I know: a normal conservative internet user who doesn’t question what they see on social media, and due to how they were raised, inherently has biases against certain groups, such as trans and gay people.

I know the type, because as a teenager, I was the type. I grew up in a traditionally conservative household in the white suburbs of southwest Atlanta. It was not odd, nor unusual, to hear a slur dropped at school and even in my house.

The difference, though, was that as I explored the internet as a teen and got to travel for work and meet new people, I started questioning my predispositions.

Nickmercs clearly hasn’t. The “leave our children alone” line of speech is a classic homophobic trope. It typecasts queer and gay people as predators and leans on Bible scriptures to support the notion that homosexuality is not just wrong, but evil. It frames sexuality as a push-pull between Satan and God, with Satan on the side of homosexuality and God on the side of heterosexuality.

Nickmercs may have grown up in Detroit, but this way of teaching isn’t exclusive to the South.

It’s also just not true. “Leave our children alone,” at its core, hits on one of two things: First, that one believes that LGBTQ+ people are inherently predators. Or second, that there’s some kind of organized push by woke LGBTQ+ people and their allies to indoctrinate young children in the classroom and other environments.

Neither, of course, are true.

The former leans on scandals such as the Catholic church’s rampant issues with sexual abuse to argue that male-to-male child molestation is the predominant form. It also presumes that sexual abuse is about sexuality, and not a desire for power stemming from mental health issues.

Studies are all over the place, but the most legitimate—those not funded by a faith-based or LGTBQ+ advocacy groups—demonstrate that power and “fixation,” defined as sexual interest in children, outweigh sexuality, especially compared to adults. A 1978 study conducted for the book, “Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender,” showed that when the child molesters studied had sexual relationships with fellow adults, it skewed heterosexual.

The latter is just ridiculous. Is there a push to have better sexual education in schools and make them a safer place for people other than cis-gendered, heterosexual students? Absolutely. I’m 26, and during my time in school, if you were gay or trans, you were ridiculed in just about every social setting. Serious uses of the F-slur were common, even to those who showed in “feminine” activities.

Nickmercs has no excuse to be ignorant. He has traveled the world and earned himself millions of dollars over his career. If he wanted to be educated on the facts, he could be.

But that’s not the point here. Nickmercs is a hypocrite. If he cared about children and protecting them, he wouldn’t be seemingly seeking out a sponsorship deal with a shady offshore gambling site that allows children to sign up.

Stake offers American, Canadian and other versions of its site that stray away from more traditional gambling games. But even outside of those territories, it’s easy to sign up on the main Stake site, deposit some Bitcoin and start gambling.

In less than 10 minutes yesterday, I set my VPN to Singapore, signed up for Stake with totally bogus information — the name Franklin Smith, with a 1986 date of birth — and uploaded two mismatched pictures of an ID I found on Google. The first a credit card with a picture of a British national named Frank Smith on it and the second a back of a fake California driver's license. Stake then provided an address to send my Bitcoin. 

Legitimate online gambling sites do rigorous levels of verification, but Stake doesn’t. Anyone with even basic knowledge of the Internet could recreate my steps for setting up an account on Stake. It doesn’t matter if they’re 40 or 14. Stake won’t check anyway!

So which is it, Nickmercs? Do you care about children or just money?

Over the past few years, I've felt a shift in influencer culture—mostly for the better.

In both the on-the-record and off-the-record conversations I've had with many of Twitch and YouTube's biggest stars, there's now a sense of responsibility when assessing what they share with their audiences. So much so that even some of the content I've produced that features them won't get a social media share from them, because they're concerned about their brands.

Nickmercs is the old type of livestreamer influencer. He only cares about his bottom line.

Not all that long ago, I covered the skins gambling scandals. Back then, kids would buy skins in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, link their Steam accounts to third-party sites and use their skins as gambling chips.

I met dozens of parents of kids who had spent thousands, sometimes even tens of thousands, on these sites, often on their parents' credit cards without permission. These kids demonstrated classic gambling addiction, and, unsurprisingly, the house always won. They lost almost all of their skins.

At one point, the skins gambling industry accounted for $2.3 billion in online bets, according to a 2016 Bloomberg report. That industry was also propped up by influencers across YouTube and Twitch, some of whom were later disciplined by regulators. Eventually, Counter-Strike and Dota creators Valve cracked down on skins gambling hard. In those casinos’ place, though, new unregulated crypto casinos such as Stake have emerged.

I don’t have a problem with gambling as a whole. I gamble on sports when I’m in states where it’s legal—like in Kentucky, where I went for my bachelor party three weeks ago, or New York, where I got married this past weekend. I play daily fantasy sports in my home state of Texas on a pretty much a weekly basis. The apps I use, FanDuel and Sleeper, always verify my location the minute I open them. If I use a VPN, it immediately blocks me from accessing the app.

Gambling is exciting. The thrill and the adrenaline rush from winning is infectious, and it does make for good content. But when it’s advertised to kids and there are no guardrails protecting me from easily creating an account, what makes you think that sites like Stake are taking any precautions to deal with underage users? It’s a safe bet, based on my experience, that they aren’t.

So it doesn’t matter if Nickmercs’ deal with Stake is separate from his streaming deal with Kick. They’re owned by the same people, and they achieve the same goal: advertising a gray era of gambling that’s legitimately dangerous to children.

Thanks for reading the The Jacob Wolf Report. If you didn’t know, I host a podcast, ‘Visionaries,’ and create other content with former Washington Post games journalist Mikhail Klimentov.

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