Twitch Finally Takes Action Against Gambling
The Amazon-owned streaming service has battled for nearly a decade with problematic gambling content on its platform.
After years of silence, Twitch announced on Tuesday that it’s banning the streaming of unregulated gambling on its platform. It’s about damn time.
The recent push to ban gambling began last week, after a series of streamers exposed one of their own, British streamer Abraham "Sliker" Mohammed, who allegedly owes his peers somewhere between $200 and $300,000.
In a livestream, Sliker said that he had spent the money he borrowed from other streamers and gaming professionals to cover sports betting debts. That resulted in an aggressive campaign to get unregulated gambling content off Twitch altogether.
In its announcement on Tuesday, Twitch said it will bar all gambling content on websites that aren’t regulated by U.S. gambling restrictions. That includes sites such as Stake, which has invested millions in sponsorships for some of Twitch’s largest creators. It will, however, allow for sports gambling, fantasy sports and poker content to remain on the service.
Twitch’s history with gambling stretches nearly a decade and has seen the site become the premier home of influencer marketing for a revolving door of unregulated gambling websites using in-game items, cryptocurrency and other means of non-fiat money.
And despite significant scandal in the past, with U.S. regulators levying fines against certain gaming creators, Twitch has stood idle on gambling—failing to curb the problem and, many would argue, contributing to the exposure of unregulated gambling to children.
Despite past lobbying from many online creators, though, this time something pushed Twitch into action.
Several of gaming’s biggest creators, including Imane “Pokimane” Anys, Matthew “Mizkif” Rinaudo and Devin Nash, were openly organizing a boycott if Twitch failed to act. Nash had already left the site, in part due to its policy on gambling; he continues to create content on YouTube.
The discussion dominated the conversation over the weekend between most of the site’s top creators and escalated even further when Tyler “Trainwrecks” Niknam—one of the most notable streamers of gambling content—accused Mizkif of helping cover up sexual abuse by another friend.
Needless to say, the discussion continued to become heated and finally, Twitch snapped. Twitch will ban unregulated gambling content beginning Oct. 18.
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Currently the sites prevalent on Twitch for unregulated gambling use cryptocurrency. Many do not work in the U.S., but that has not stopped even the streamers they sponsor from circumventing the rules.
In May 2021, the arguably most popular streamer on Twitch, Félix “xQc” Lengyel, seemingly used a VPN to spoof his location outside of the U.S. to gamble on Stake, which sponsored him for a reported $1 million per month. At the time, xQc lived in Austin, Texas. He has since relocated back to Canada. Stake uses crypto as its primary currency as a way to avoid regulation.
Before that, though, a large scandal existed around the use of “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “Dota 2” in-game skins on some of these websites. That scandal included creators popular on both YouTube and Twitch in 2015 and 2016.
Two YouTubers, Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Thomas “Syndicate” Cassell, and Twitch streamer Josh “JoshOG” Beaver owned CSGO Lotto and promoted that website in their content on the platforms without disclosing their business ties. They were later fined by the Federal Trade Commission in 2017.
Twitch banned another creator, James “PhantomL0rd” Varga, who allegedly stole thousands of dollars from players on a website he partially owned, CSGOShuffle. Varga later sued Twitch and prevailed in 2021 after years of litigation, but mostly on a technicality—that the website had violated a 30-day notice period needed to revoke his account from the site.
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Even after the uproar around skins gambling, Twitch remained on the sideline while the issue continued to fester.
But this new guidance, banning gambling unregulated outside of the U.S., might not be enough.
“Nowhere does Twitch say they are banning the CONTENT that is gambling,” Nash wrote in a Twitter thread Tuesday evening. “Further, this even allows websites specifically mentioned here to continue.”
Nash remains optimistic, though.
“There are hopefully some positives that can come from this,” he wrote. “It's a step in the right direction. It might be a strict policy that makes it more difficult to stream gambling on Twitch. It might lead to other consumer protection, like deposit limits. That's good, at least.”
Whether the U.S.-regulated sites, like the sportsbooks, the daily fantasy sports websites or poker, will continue to feed the problem will be the major question this fall.