In the past few years, we’ve seen steady growth in the online gambling market. Many operators of casinos, bingo, poker, and other gambling sites have migrated their offline activities to online platforms. Even with just a handful of U.S. States having regulations for online gambling, the market is still projected to have a CAGR of 17.32% in the next five years.
One of the ways these gambling sites are widening their reach is by sponsoring popular streamers. However, streaming gambling has been an issue of contention in the online community.
Gambling streams, or gamba streams, are sponsored activities involving up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per stream. Companies provide streamers with funds, usually in cryptocurrency, to spend on games while streaming their experience online. They also provide referral codes with attractive perks that streamers can share with their viewers.
Gamba streamers often spend hours playing on these gambling sites. They win or lose thousands of dollars at a time while spinning slots and engaging in other casino games. These high-stakes broadcasts are viewed by thousands of viewers.
Gambling streams are not entirely new. In the past year, it’s become a popular pastime of streamers, especially on Twitch. However, its increase in popularity has also brought it much attention, making it a controversial topic in the online community.
Gamba streamers have received criticism for receiving money while promoting gambling and reckless behavior. While gamba streamers claim that they are not using their own money, the fact remains that their actions may trigger viewers to gamble using their hard-earned money, potentially leading to gambling addictions. Doing something that spurs such negative behaviors and getting money in exchange for it is seen as unethical and morally fraught.
There is now heightened concern about how gamba streams impact their viewers, particularly the impressionable younger audience. While Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms with streaming features prohibit children below 13 years old from setting their own accounts, younger kids are still able to use them and view streams. Viewing popular streamers engaging in online gambling may influence vulnerable viewers who won’t consider the repercussions.
Although streaming gambling in itself isn’t illegal, the underlying activity may be construed as such. For instance, Stake, an online slots casino, is currently illegal in the United States. The site also has a disclaimer that players from the U.S. aren’t accepted, but it can still be accessed by through a VPN service. In effect, Stake-sponsored streamers who promote the site and share monetized referral codes are egging U.S. viewers to use a site with no gambling license from the U.S. This may constitute as promoting illegal gambling.
Streamers have varying opinions on the issues surrounding gamba streams. Pokimane has expressed strong disapproval and has heavily criticized other streamers who take such sponsorships. Asmongold has also called for Twitch to ban these streams.
xQc and Mizkif both did gamba streams earlier this year and featured affiliate links, but have since stopped engaging in such activities. While xQc believes that these streams are entertaining and legitimate, he apologized to his viewers for exposing them to an addictive activity. Mizkif is said to be giving up a lucrative business opportunity because he feels awful about these sponsorships.
On the other hand, Trainwrecks justified his gambling streams. He admitted to receiving a million dollars a month in sponsorships and commissions but maintains that he does not explicitly tell viewers to gamble. In June 2021, he moved to Canada to continue online gambling streams.
Twitch, the spotlighted platform in this controversy, has committed to monitoring gambling content to ensure that users have a safe and positive experience on their platform. Its Community Guidelines have no specific mention of streaming gambling but have clauses on illegal content and activity that do not adhere to local, national, and international laws. Meanwhile, YouTube and Facebook Gaming have long prohibited streams showing gambling sites that have not been reviewed by their platforms.
As the arguments become more heated, fingers are being pointed in various directions. Does the government not have firm regulations on online gambling activities? Should platforms with streaming ability have stricter guidelines about gambling content? Should streamers be banned from receiving sponsorship and commissions? Is there a need to set age limits for these types of streams?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific entity to be in the wrong. Even the issue itself leaves much to be debated on when it comes to legality and morality. What the stakeholders can do is to identify ways to protect users, especially the vulnerable ones.
Streamers who still take sponsorships from online gambling sites may want to exercise caution. Those who find themselves in a sticky legal territory would be wise to consult entertainment lawyers for advice.