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As streamers threaten boycott, Twitch takes action on some gambling content

Gambling-focused streams like this one will see more restrictions from Twitch in the coming weeks.
Enlarge / Gambling-focused streams like this one will see more restrictions from Twitch in the coming weeks.

Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch announced late Tuesday that it will start cracking down on streams that promote certain types of gambling sites in the coming weeks. The move comes after a number of prominent streamers publicly mulled a “Twitch blackout” to protest what they see as Twitch’s implicit promotion of damaging and addictive gambling behavior.
The concern over gambling among some streamers has become newly relevant this week thanks in part to Sliker, a somewhat prominent streamer who admitted on a stream last weekend to a serious addiction to gambling on the outcome of CS: GO matches. Regular readers will recognize that type of gambling as one that Valve and other streamers have struggled with for years.

Sliker says he solicited at least $200,000 in donations from other streamers and viewers under false pretenses, using the money to fund his gambling habit rather than to help with a claimed temporary cash flow issue. “I don’t know what to say to the people I borrowed from,” Sliker said in his confession stream. “This is the epitome of gambling. I want to say don’t touch it.”

Following that controversy, major streamers Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys, Matthew ‘Mizkif’ Rinaudo, and Devin Nash started discussing what they saw as Twitch’s gambling problem as part of a lengthy joint stream.

Nash has been an outspoken critic of Twitch’s lack of action regarding gambling on the platform and recently discussed how he left Twitch months ago over the issue. “Gambling is damaging to young Twitch users, bad for legitimate advertisers, and brings down the quality of the whole site,” he wrote. “Legitimate advertisers don’t want their ads served next to online casino ads. They don’t want to support advertising gambling to kids. This decision is costing Twitch in cultural equity and real revenue.”

In the joint stream Sunday, Nash read a viewer comment suggesting a number streamers with a large viewer base should join together to threaten “a one week strike over Christmas” unless Twitch makes a “concession on gambling.” Rinaudo responded instantly that he “would do it in a minute,” leading Nash to add that he thought it “would work pretty fucking well.”

“If there are streamers who are not willing to do that [strike], then they’re not willing to put their money where their mouth is,” Anys added. “If you really think gambling is that bad you should be willing to take a week off.”

An ongoing issue

Fast-forward to Tuesday, when Twitch responded with a tweeted “update on gambling on Twitch.” Under new rules that will go into effect October 18, Twitch said it will ban all streaming of “gambling sites that include slots, roulette, or dice games,” unless they are licensed “either in the U.S. or other jurisdictions that provide sufficient consumer protection.”

“We did it y’all,” Anys tweeted after Twitch’s announcement Tuesday. “Public pressure, tweets, raising awareness, it all matters.”

If you really think gambling is that bad you should be willing to take a week off.

Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys

While Twitch promised more policy details in the coming weeks, it clarified that “websites that focus on sports betting, fantasy sports, and poker” would not be included in its gambling restrictions. That’s an exception that seems likely to upset prominent gambling-based streamers like Tyler “Trainwrecks” Niknam, one of the most popular personalities on the platform.

“To be clear, the people scapegoating slots, [blackjack] & roulette and not blaming the individual, are the real problem,” Niknam tweeted Sunday. “On top of that, Sliker was a sports betting addict, the one type of gambling that is normalized…”

Many gambling-focused streamers hide or downplay their gambling losses on stream or urge their viewers to take advantage of promotional deals from gambling sites (something that is already partially restricted by Twitch). But Niknam seems to take pains to highlight how these games are designed to give the house an edge and drain the players’ money. “THIS IS NOT THE REALITY OF GAMBLING, YOU WILL LOSE,” Niknam wrote in a recent tweet featuring a clip of a $2.25 million roulette win alongside Drake. “Gambling is losing, don’t gamble” he writes on his Instagram bio.

But Niknam is also facing some controversy for allegedly sending Twitch employees tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency during a giveaway stream, a move some see as a payoff to protect his position on the platform. In response to a request for comment from Ars, Twitch noted that the employees involved in that giveaway “are no longer Twitch staff, and haven’t been for some time.”

Niknam has not responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica but said on a recent stream that he “did this live in front of 60,000 people. If there was a conspiracy, there would be hidden DMs of me… it was fun banter.”

Whatever final rules Twitch decides regarding gambling on the platform, this issue seems unlikely to go away any time soon. Gambling streamers seem like too large a part of Twitch for the company to ban them entirely. On the other hand, the platform now seems to be suffering some serious reputational damage among some viewers and streamers for its links to gambling. As sports broadcasters have recently found, that can be a difficult tightrope to walk.

(Ashley Belanger contributed to this report)

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