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Twitch’s crypto casino ban ignores the bigger game

During a heavily watched Twitch stream on September 18, UK-based YouTuber Sliker delivered a tearful confession to his audience. “It’s time for the truth,” he said between sobs. “I lied to a lot of people…I borrowed money from people.” He had, he confessed, stolen at least $200,000 from fellow streamers and fans, a move he claimed was the result of a gambling addiction that started with it Counter Strike Global Offensive. “I came across streamers and asked them if I could borrow some money,” he said. “I wouldn’t tell you why, because it was gambling. I would lie to her.” He has since had his affiliate status revoked and users can no longer subscribe to his channel.

Sliker’s scams at several well-known streamers draw new attention to Twitch’s sticky relationship with gambling that has existed on the platform for years. Critics say that watching their favorite streamers place bets can be a gateway into an expensive, sometimes illegal, potentially life-destroying addiction for impressionable viewers. Twitch says it has “actively reviewed” gambling content and has plans for changes in October, but some streamers want it removed from the platform entirely.

On Twitch, you can stream slots, sports betting, poker, and other games that are legal in many places. Many streamers do this as part of lucrative sponsorship deals, where companies give them money or referral codes to play games on their sites in front of viewers. It’s mutually beneficial: streamers are raking in big paychecks — some claim they’re making millions — and gaming companies are turning big-name streamers into live advertisements for their services. According to TwitchTracker, Slots is currently the 10th most watched category on the platform.

Twitch doesn’t allow streamers to share referral codes, affiliate links, or links to sites that offer slots, roulette, or craps, but some streamers have managed to circumvent those rules, according to the company itself. The platform is in the midst of a “crypto gambling boom” even though many crypto gambling sites are not legally allowed to operate in places like the US. Being essentially offshore, crypto casinos bypass gambling regulations, but US players can still access them via VPNs. Crypto casinos are also showing no signs of slowing down; In August, Bloomberg reported that crypto-casinos are still attracting young players thanks to their continued presence on Twitch and support from celebrities like rapper Drake.

Gambling, legal or not, has long been viewed as problematic by some members of the Twitch community. Shortly after Sliker’s confession, celebrity Twitch stars Pokimane and Mizkif, along with streaming and marketing agency co-founder Devin Nash, met on a stream to discuss Sliker and the role of gambling on the platform. They proposed a campaign to pressure Twitch to ban gambling: a 1 week boycott during Christmas, a busy holiday on Twitch. Nash in particular has been adamant about banning gambling from Twitch, vocation it is “terrible for the platform” as well as “harmful for young Twitch users, bad for legitimate advertisers and degrades the quality of the entire site”.

Pull out announced on September 20 that it will update its policies effective October 18 to specifically ban streaming gambling sites “that contain slots, roulette, or craps games that are not available in the United States or other jurisdictions that offer adequate consumer protections, are licensed,” the company said on Twitter. Currently, that list includes crypto casinos Stakes.com, Rollbit.com, Duelbits.com, and Roobert.com, although Twitch notes the list could grow as they start enforcing the new guidelines.

To be clear, this isn’t an outright ban on gambling – it’s a blow to crypto casinos. Twitch will continue to allow streams for legal activities like sports betting, fantasy sports and poker, and even random-based games like US-licensed slots or dice. On TwitterNash called the move to scrap offshore cryptocurrency gambling sites “a step in the right direction,” noting that it could make it harder to stream gambling on Twitch and lead to consumer protections on things like deposit limits — safeguards that “relieve many tragic Stories we see from those who started gaming because of Twitch.”

“But what we fought for was a ban on gambling because it is objectively harmful to the site and its users,” he continued Twitter earlier this week. “That’s not it. Luck based gambling will still be alive on the site on October 18th.”

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