Gambling has been a thorn in the sides of gamers and Twitch viewers alike for some time now. Quite a few companies have taken a stand against the practice, especially when children are involved, and Twitch is the latest organization to join them. While that may sound like a step in the right direction, the truth is that this whole situation is just a little more complicated (and dramatic) than that.
Recently, Twitch posted an update stating that, on October 18, the company will prohibit all links and referral codes to slots, roulette, and dice game sites, especially those that aren’t licensed in the US.
This news might have come as a surprise to some users since Twitch has dragged its feet for the past couple of years despite the questionable legality of these gambling streams. What finally encouraged the company to take the plunge and ban gambling? Well, would you believe it can be traced back to a former member of Team Liquid and a whole lot of streamer drama?
What Started the Twitch Gambling Drama?
Twitch’s “gambling” section has been a point of contention for quite some time now. While certain legal grey areas have allowed people to stream themselves gambling via various websites through Twitch, countless Twitch streamers have gotten in big trouble for gambling live on air for one reason or another. The latest such streamer, ex-Team Liquid member ItsSliker, spent so much money gambling while streaming that he essentially started the drama that culminated in Twitch’s gambling ban. Although, the amount of money he spent wasn’t as big an issue as where he got that money from.
According to reports from sites such as Eurogamer and The Verge, ItsSliker had scammed his friends and followers out of around $200,000, just so he could gamble on streams. He had taken advantage of their good faith and told his victims that his bank account was frozen and he needed some money to get by. People who sent him cash thought they were helping a streamer financially on the ropes, but they instead fueled what ItsSliker later admitted was a gambling addiction. Some of the more notable people who fell for ItsSliker’s ploy included streamers lukeafkfan (who reportedly sent ItsSliker approximately $27,000), and Lacari (who reportedly lost $1,000 to this scam).
After news of ItsSliker’s behavior circulated around the internet, many prominent streamers decided to take action and help ease the people who had sent him money. Félix “xQc” Lengyel and Ludwig Ahgren, for instance, promised to help refund all of ItsSliker’s victims. Meanwhile, content creators such as Asmongold demanded ItsSliker be banned for defrauding viewers. However, those were just the opening acts. Twitch and the internet at large would soon learn that ItsSliker was the straw that broke the camel’s back and forced Twitch to finally take a stand on gambling…with a little push from some streamers with an inordinate amount of clout.
Why Did Twitch Ban Gambling Streams?
While many streamers paid a price for gambling while streaming (beyond whatever money they lost while gambling, I mean), Twitch never really changed its official tactics or terms of service to seriously prevent future occurrences. However, this latest incident finally convinced Twitch to change their minds, albeit due to a surprising amount of activism.
As previously mentioned, xQc, Ludwig Ahgren, and other popular streamers decided to raise some money to help some of the people that ItsSilker scammed. Some prominent faces had other ideas, though. During a joint stream, Imane “Pokimane” Anys, Matthew “Mizkif” Rinaudo, and Devin Nash floated the idea of hitting Twitch where it hurt: in the wallet. These streamers discussed the idea of organizing a strike during the holiday (when ad revenue is at its peak) if Twitch didn’t ban gambling streams. Pokimane alone could have cost Twitch a hefty sum if she refused to play, but the three also discussed getting others on board, including Asmongold.
Shortly after all that happened, some additional dirt on some of those involved with both sides of the streaming debate was unearthed. Most notably, streamer Mizkif was accused of covering up instances of sexual harassment and using racist and sexist slurs in recently shared text conversations. Mizkif admitted that he was aware of an incident of sexual assault, though the specifics of that matter are still being investigated. Speaking of which, OTK (a content organization Mizkif co-founded) has announced that Mizkif has been “placed on leave” while they contact a third-party legal organization to help them investigate the matter.
Furthermore, a clip soon emerged that reportedly showed prominent gambling streamer TrainwrecksTV gifting Twitch employees thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrency during his streams. While that matter is also unresolved at this time (Trainwrecks claimed the people who he gave money to are no longer Twitch employees), the timing of the incident raised many questions about whether or not Twitch was making too much money (whether directly or indirectly) via gambling streamers to ever step in and make long-term policy changes.
While Twitch has yet to directly address some of the incidents noted above at the time of this writing, the timing of those incidents and the timing of Twitch’s statement on the “gambling ban” are certainly noteworthy. The running theory is that Twitch executives caught wind of these plans and decided that ignoring them was no longer worth the risk. Logic tells us that the company must have been discussing such a major policy change sooner than some of those incidents occurred, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that the decision to announce those changes when they did was heavily influenced by the pressure of some of those events.
What Does This Gambling Ban Mean For the Future of Twitch?
Now that Twitch has banned gambling streams and prohibited the sharing of any links to gambling sites, the problem is solved, right? No more gambling streams means no more content creators like ItsSilker scamming followers out of cash to fuel addictions while on air, right? If only it were all so simple.
First off, Twitch didn’t enact a blanket ban. The announcement only covers slots, roulette, and dice game sites; sports betting, fantasy sports, and poker sites are still on the table. Twitch could ban the rest of the internet’s gambling sites from streaming in the future, which is probably what some in the community would like to see. Of course, that raises an important question: Why stop there? Why not also ban streams of games with gambling mechanics?
After all, countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands recognize loot boxes as gambling, and games such as Genshin Impact and Apex Legends utilize loot boxes. Since those titles are popular on Twitch, will the company ban all Genshin Impact and Apex Legends streams, among others? Will Twitch block these games in countries that want to regulate microtransactions? By making an official statement against gambling streams in any form, Twitch may have opened the door for even more complicated discussions about the relationship between gambling and modern gaming. Not to mention that some of those calling for ItsSliker to be banned also regularly hosted gambling streams. That isn’t to say that Twitch’s decision wasn’t the right move but rather that it’s hardly the final word on this matter.
Furthermore, while Twitch’s new gambling ban gives us a glimpse into the future of Twitch content, it may also prove to be a harbinger for the future of the platform itself. As previously stated, if Pokimane, Mizkif, and Devin hadn’t threatened to go on strike, Twitch might never have banned gambling streams. It stands to reason that those content creators (and possibly some other big names on Twitch), may soon test their influence in ways that could impact the company’s future decisions.
For instance, another controversy building within the Twitch community concerns the site’s revenue split. Twitch’s 50/50 split is reportedly “stifling” the growth of smaller streamers (according to Eurogamer), and its lack of in-site discoverability options doesn’t help matters. Even OnlyFans offers a superior 80/20 split in the creator’s favor. Countless users called for a fairer revenue split on Twitch’s UserVoice forums, but when Twitch addressed this situation, the company ultimately refused to budge. This decision did not go over well, as countless users responded by saying they would either start streaming on YouTube or help other content creators with the transition. While not directly related to the gambling ban, both the gambling situation and the revenue split are signs of potentially historic discontent among Twitch’s streamers starting to boil over.
Perhaps Twitch will reconsider some of its policies and find ways to please more of its users and streamers. Maybe some of Twitch’s top streamers will step in to exert a little pressure. However, we could soon be looking at a full-blown Twitch exodus in the very near future. YouTube has already lured some top names from Twitch in recent months and, at the very least, some current top Twitch streamers have at least been discussing the viability of simply taking their talents elsewhere.
It’s going to be fascinating to see this whole thing play out. Twitch’s top streamers have a powerful voice on the platform, but will they stick around long enough to use their power to try to get Twitch on the right track, or will Twitch refuse to budge on this revenue split situation (and other controversies) long enough to convince those streamers that it’s time to move on.