Popular Twitch streamers threatened to strike if the video site didn’t ban gambling. Days later, the Amazon-owned company changed its policy

September 21, 2022, 10:12 AM UTC
A livestreamer speaks into a microphone while streaming on his computer
Gambling streams are increasingly popular on Twitch, yet some of the platform's most prominent streamers want the platform to ban them entirely.
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Twitch, the popular live-streaming platform owned by Amazon, is targeting one of its most popular category of streams: people pulling virtual slot machines.

On Tuesday evening, Twitch announced on Twitter that, as of Oct. 18, websites that offer “slots, roulette, or dice games” that are not licensed in the U.S. or other jurisdictions with “sufficient consumer protections” can no longer be streamed on the platform. Twitch said it had “seen some people…expose our community to potential harm.”

The policy change comes just days after some of the platform’s most popular streamers threatened to stop streaming if Twitch didn’t change its policy on gambling streams.

Twitch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Saturday, one popular Twitch streamer admitted to using money borrowed from fellow streamers to fund a personal gambling addiction. That confession sparked a larger conversation about gambling streams on Twitch, which several online gambling companies use as a marketing tool to attract new users.

Popular streamers like Imane Anys, who streams under the handle Pokimane, began to discuss a strike to push Twitch to ban gambling from its platform. Streamers suggested a boycott over the Christmas holiday, a peak period for ad sales. “That’ll hurt the most,” suggested Anys—the world’s second most-watched female streamer in the second quarter of 2022, according to analytics company StreamHatchet—during a streamed conversation on Sunday night. 

Some streamers like Anys and politics streamer Hasan Piker celebrated Twitch’s decision to ban some gambling streams, while others pointed to gaps in the policy announcement that would keep gambling on the platform.

Virtual slots

Gambling streams are increasingly popular on Twitch. Users watched about 244 million hours of gambling streams in the first six months of 2022, according to StreamHatchet, greater than the entirety of 2020.

The vast majority of gambling streams are “slots” streams, where users watch streamers play virtual slot machines for hours on end. “Slots” is currently Twitch’s 10th most popular category of stream, ahead of games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty.

Sites like Curacao-registered Stake.com, which allows users to use cryptocurrencies to gamble on their platform, have sponsored streams on Twitch to attract new users. Those practices have led to concerns that Twitch users might turn to offshore gambling sites, which are not licensed or regulated in the U.S. Twitch’s younger users might also be attracted to offshore gambling sites, leading to concerns about underage gambling.

Twitch and gambling

Twitch has been evaluating the presence of gambling streams for a while. It banned affiliate and referral links to gambling sites in 2021. The live-streaming platform told Bloomberg in early August that it was “currently in the midst of a deep-dive look into gambling behavior on Twitch.” 

But Tuesday’s policy announcement does not mean Twitch is completely banning gambling. Sites offering slots and other games can still be streamed so long as they are licensed in the U.S. In addition, Twitch explicitly said that “websites that focus on sports betting, fantasy sports, and poker” can still be streamed. 

That might not be good enough for some streamers angry at gambling streams on Twitch. Devin Nash, one of the streamers involved in the strike conversations, tweeted that the streaming platform’s policy change, while a “step in the right direction,” still “leaves plenty of room for gambling to remain.”

“We were fighting [for] a ban on luck-based gambling because it is objectively harmful to the website and its users,” continued Nash on Twitter. “This is not it.”

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