Is It Time For Twitch To Ban Gambling On Stream?
Crypto slots are a popular category on Twitch, but critics are concerned it's leading people to addiction.
At any given time on Twitch, you can watch someone spin online slots for hours on end, winning and losing thousands of dollars at a time.
The flashy symbols roll by over and over, with the streamers hoping for just the right combination to bring their total back up. Often, thousands of people are watching as it happens.
Online slots are a big enough draw to warrant their own category on Twitch, but some big names are calling for the platform to ban them, concerned that they promote reckless behavior. Gambling addiction experts have taken notice, too.
Last week, popular World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold tweeted that Twitch should ban these streams.
Pokimane, another top streamer, took to her own stream to criticize already-wealthy Twitch partners who take sponsorships from online casinos.
"Let's be honest, if you're getting an offer from a casino sponsorship, you're already a multi-millionaire. You need to be a multi-multi-millionaire?" she said.
She added that these streamers have so many more options for income that aren't so ethically and morally fraught.
That's been one of the main criticisms of slot streams. The people playing sometimes get deals with these online casinos and offer voucher codes to viewers to get extra money if they start playing.
This is all very concerning to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, an organization that deals with gambling addiction but retains a neutral stance on gambling itself.
"We absolutely believe that the current environment leads to and likely exasperates gambling addiction among vulnerable viewers, both adults and in particular children or adolescents," he told BuzzFeed News.
He said there's plenty of evidence that watching gambling can trigger the urge to gamble yourself. It also normalizes the act.
"You tend to take less precautions and you may be more likely to engage in that activity," he said.
The other issue, he said, is legality. The most popular slots platform on Twitch is Stake, an online casino that uses cryptocurrency. It is currently illegal in the US, but streamers can easily access it using a VPN service. Earlier this week, Kotaku reported streamers have been offered thousands of dollars to play certain online casinos.
Twitch declined to comment when reached by BuzzFeed News. The site lists resources for gambling addiction, but they're not displayed on gambling streams. The community guidelines prohibit illegal activity but do not specifically mention illegal forms of gambling.
The guidelines also say streamers must comply with FTC rules on disclosing paid endorsements and advertising, but those rules aren't always followed.
"It’s very clear that there is a highly monetized ecosystem of referrals and rakebacks and paid promotion that provides very deceptive gambling content with no transparency, and high risk for abuse among the promoters and addiction among the viewers," said Whyte.
Slots streamers are well aware of the criticism. Last week, slots streamer Trainwreck tweeted that he discourages other people from gambling like he does. He did not reply to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
He also tweeted that he'd support a way to confine his stream to an 18+ audience.
But at least one slots streamer, Félix Lengyel aka xQc, has decided to call it quits. He didn't return a request for comment.
Recently, as Dexerto reported, xQc said that while he thinks gambling streams are legitimate and entertaining, he's going to stop because he is "slightly, if not moderately addicted." He apologized for exposing viewers to it.
"I hope that anybody who started [gambling] is going to quit, and I’m sorry for hardcore exposing it to people," he said.