“I can’t continue what I’m doing,” ItsSliker said on a September livestream to around 7,000 viewers on Twitch. “I don’t want to continue with the gambling, I want to stop it.”
The streamer with over 400,000 followers on Twitch had just admitted to taking tens of thousands of dollars from others to fund his gambling addiction. Claiming that he had bills to pay or needed to purchase flight tickets, he would message content creators and fans, all under the guise that he would eventually pay them back. Though ItsSilker never gambled on camera, the platform he streamed on supported a culture that could have fed into his behavior.
Gambling on Twitch has always been a contemptuous, but profitable, pastime. Creators stream themselves betting on poker, bets, or slot machines, with fans living for the highs and lows of money being splurged that isn’t theirs. Some top creators like xQc and TrainwrecksTV, spend millions of dollars on crypto gambling sites that claim to offer huge payouts. On stream, xQc admitted to wagering over $685 million, while TrainwrecksTV has admitted to losing over $22 million gambling.
But these streams aren’t just harmless entertainment. Twitch’s audience can tend to skew younger—36% of the site’s viewership in 2022 is between 18 and 24 years old, according to StreamScheme—and can be coerced to gamble themselves. Though Twitch has banned sharing gambling affiliate links on their platforms, some streamers still have special promo codes or links on their personal sites that invite players to gamble.
“Given the age of a Twitch audience that skews younger, even a legal regulated site would have problems,” Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling Keith Whyte told Passionfruit. “The problem with the youth viewership and the lack of responsible gambling is still a problem for any gambling streamer on Twitch.”
These crypto gambling sites, like Stake and Rollbit, are mostly unregulated and can give streamers massive payouts in front of thousands of viewers. These sites can inflate payouts of big streamers using fake money to provide better or more enticing content.
“What happened with Sliker and these guys that engage in this sort of shady behavior using the platform, the audience isn’t safe,” Robin Singh of the Queens Problem Gambling Resource Center told Passionfruit. “You aren’t just watching, some of these folks are taking part. The parasocial relationship is alive and well on this platform.”
In the wake of ItsSilker’s reveal, top streamers Mizkif and Pokimane shared that they planned on boycotting Twitch until the Amazon-owned company did something about the gambling on the platform. Either because of or coincidentally, Twitch announced a new change coming on October 16. Gambling sites that aren’t licensed in the United States, like Stake and Rollbit, will be prohibited on the platform. Other forms of gambling, like sports betting, fantasy sports, and poker, will still be allowed.
“Twitch is more reactive than they are proactive, they don’t do much until it shifts their revenue flow,” Singh said. “I want to say it’s a step in the right direction, but in reality, it’s more like a little bunny hop.”
The new rules are a bit vague and don’t encompass all problematic content, making it unlikely to completely deter gambling on Twitch. The rules only focus on a small group of sites and other forms of playing with money still remain. Streamers could potentially just use other gambling sites that were not included in the ban or move to another platform where that content is allowed. TrainwrecksTV, who remains the largest gambling streamer with 2 million followers, said on stream after Twitch’s announcement that “not much is going to change” with his content.
“I believe that if Twitch thinks it’s problematic, then they should ban all gambling, not just some,” Kaitlyn Siragusa, who has 5.9 million followers on Twitch as Amouranth, told Passionfruit.
The messaging is also a bit unclear. Amazon recently announced a multi-year partnership with DraftKings as a sponsor on their Prime Video Thursday night broadcasts. Hasan Piker, one of Twitch’s top political pundits, criticized the announcement on stream, saying “Twitch said no gambling on the platform unless we’re making money off it.”
Though the gesture is flawed, it’s still a good move on Twitch’s part. The platform has stayed silent on gambling for far too long and at least they are doing something to address the issue.
“Even if streamers switch to other platforms, Twitch is still a massive platform that sends a strong signal to folks that there is risk and danger,” Whyte said. “We can’t stop every bit, but Twitch is showing some long overdue leadership.
It may be a solid first step, but there’s still a lot more that Twitch can do to deter young viewers from gambling. In order to register an account on Twitch, you need to be at least 13 years old, with a phone number or email address. Though gambling streams are usually tagged 18 and up, viewers can easily circumvent these virtual blockades.
“Twitch needs better age verification,” Singh said. “ A lot of people will use an email, a fake age, and sign up for Twitch and follow their favorite streamer, some of which are heavily promoting gambling behavior.”
Other sites have already barred some gambling content. TikTok’s community guidelines prohibit “content promoting gambling services” and YouTube has banned gambling-related ads and links to online gambling sites. These platforms are popular for live streamers, but Twitch is still the top dog in the space. It has fostered a community, language, and culture that isn’t easily replicable in and outside the gaming community. But with their stranglehold on the market loosening with each PR faux pas, it’s unclear if Twitch is just gambling their goodwill away.
Twitch did not respond to a request for comment.