In the most packed-out panel for the Esports and Gaming Summit in Las Vegas last weekend, streamer Nick “Nickmercs” Kolcheff took the stage. The “Call of Duty” streamer and co-owner of gaming organization FaZe Clan with 4 million YouTube subscribers was uncharacteristically uncontroversial, sharing surface-level thoughts on his recent partnership with the MMA, how he monetizes his fandom, and his recent eight-figure deal to stream primarily on Twitch-rival-platform Kick.
Kick has a connection to the crypto gambling platform Stake, as both companies are co-owned by Australian entrepreneur Ed Craven. Stake reportedly gave Kolcheff $10 million for a non-exclusive contract for one year of Kick content. For his first stream on Kick on Monday, the streamer shared, “We’re gonna do some gambling for sure. It’s part of the contract.”
Once the clip started going viral, Kick’s head of Strategic Partnerships Andrew Santamaria clarified on X that there is no gambling “clause” in Kolcheff’s Kick contract, and gaming reporter Jake Lucky added that Kolcheff “has a Stake contract alongside his Kick contract,” although it’s unclear the source of that information. (Santamaria, Kolcheff, Luck, and Kick did not respond a request for comment by publication time). It seems like Kolcheff, one of the biggest creators in gaming, is confused over the nature of the contract he signed.
Since launching in October of last year, Kick has attempted to position itself as the best alternative streaming platform to Twitch. They boast about their 95/5 split, giving the creators the majority of the amount of money they earn from subscriptions, and have signed massive deals with large names like Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa and Félix “xQc” Lengyel.
But the platform has struggled to soar with its constant controversies, lax community guidelines, and connection to the crypto gambling site, with questions swirling that its entire existence is just to promote gambling to a streaming audience. Craven in multiple interviews has consistently denied that one impacts the other.
“As for the claim that one of Kick’s primary goals is to drive traffic to Stake, this is nonsense,” Craven told Sportskeeda in May. “Stake is the world’s biggest online crypto casino with a massive, dedicated community in its own right.”
But the evidence of Stake and Kick’s hand-in-hand relationship is hard to ignore. In June, it was found by Redditors that Kick’s recommended tab always showed some gambling streamers, (though the algorithm was later changed). In May, Santamaria described Stake as Kick’s “sister company.”
On a Tuesday night stream, Lengyel also said that “of course” he is paid to gamble on stream — though he did contradict himself on a June stream, saying that his contract does not have a stipulation to gamble. Ryan Morrison, Lengyel’s manager and part of the team behind the construction of his Kick contract, told Passionfruit that there is “no mention of gambling anywhere in the deal.”
Twitch has outright banned offshore crypto gambling sites like Stake from being streamed on their site after big creators on the platform like Imane “Pokimane” Anys and Hasan Piker implored the site to do so. At one point they helped #TwitchStopGambling to trend on Twitter in September 2022. Gambling, afterall, is incredibly addictive and dangerous. According to the National Association of Addiction Professionals, it has the highest suicide rate of any addiction.
Kick seems to have realized that the only way they can reach that coveted young male demographic is to make a lane of their own. Kolcheff is seemingly getting paid to gamble to his audience of fans, though whether it’s from Kick or Stake doesn’t really matter. As the big money pours in and Kick continues to get more of a share of the market, their relationship with Stake will only get more confusing.
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