During a heavily-watched Twitch stream on September 18, UK-based creator Sliker delivered a tearful admission to his audience. “It’s time for the truth,” he said between sobs. “I lied to many people … I borrowed money off people.” He’d pried, he confessed, at least $200,000 from fellow streamers and fans, a move he claimed was the result of a gambling addiction that began with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. “I would come across streamers and ask them if I could borrow money,” he said. “I wouldn’t give them the reason, because it was gambling. I would lie to them.” He’s since been stripped of his partner status and users can no longer subscribe to his channel.
Sliker’s swindling of several well-known streamers is drawing new attention to Twitch’s sticky relationship with gambling, which has existed on the platform for years. Critics say that for impressionable viewers, watching their favorite streamers place bets can be a gateway into an expensive, sometimes illegal, potentially life-ruining addiction. Twitch says it’s been “actively reviewing” gambling content and has plans for changes in October, but some streamers want it off the platform entirely.
On Twitch, you can stream slot machines, sports betting, poker, and other games that are legal in many places. Lots of streamers do, part of lucrative sponsorship deals in which companies give them money or referral codes to play games on their sites in front of viewers. It’s mutually beneficial: streamers pull in big paychecks—some claim they make millions—and gambling companies turn 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 link to sites that feature slots, roulette, or dice games, but some streamers have managed to skirt 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 permitted to operate in places like the US. Because crypto casinos are essentially based offshore, they evade gambling regulations, yet US players can still access them using VPNs. Crypto casinos show no signs of slowing down, either; in August, Bloomberg reported crypto casinos are still drawing in young players thanks to their continued presence on Twitch and celebrity endorsements like those from rapper Drake.
Gambling, legal or not, has long been seen as troublesome by some members of the Twitch community. Shortly after Sliker’s confessional, prominent Twitch stars Pokimane and Mizkif, alongside streamer and marketing agency co-founder Devin Nash, got together on a stream to discuss Sliker and the role of gambling on the platform. They proposed a campaign to put pressure on Twitch to ban gambling: a 1-week boycott during Christmas, a high traffic holiday on Twitch. Nash in particular has been adamant about getting gambling off Twitch, calling it “horrible for the platform” as well as “damaging to young Twitch users, bad for legitimate advertisers, and brings down the quality of the whole site.”
Twitch announced on September 20 that it will update its policies, effective October 18, to specifically prohibit streaming gambling sites “that include slots, roulette, or dice games that aren’t licensed either in the US or other jurisdictions that provide sufficient consumer protection,” the company said on Twitter. Currently, that list includes crypto casinos Stakes.com, Rollbit.com, Duelbits.com, and Roobert.com, though Twitch notes that list could grow as they begin to enforce the new guidelines.
To be clear, this isn’t an outright ban on gambling—it’s a blow to crypto casinos. Twitch will still allow streams for legal activities like sports betting, fantasy sports, and poker, and even chance-based games like US-licensed slots or dice. On Twitter, Nash called the move to abolish offshore cryptocurrency gambling sites “a step in the right direction,” noting that it may make it more difficult to stream gambling on Twitch and lead to consumer protection on things like deposit limits—protections that could “lower the number of tragic stories we see from those who started gambling because of Twitch.”
“But what we were fighting for was a ban on luck-based gambling because it is objectively harmful to the website and its users,” he wrote on Twitter earlier this week. “This is not it. Luck-based gambling will still be alive and well on the website on October 18th.”