Last month, Bloomberg posted a revealing article condemning the current gambling boom happening on Twitch. Since then, critics across the web have been taking a closer look at gambling streams and the potential harm they pose to viewers. While hugely popular streamers like Trainwreck and xQc earn extraordinary sums from sponsors, their viewers are losing big.
Let’s take a closer look at the Twitch gambling meta and why it should be avoided by streamers and viewers alike.
What is the Twitch gambling meta?
Though Twitch first added a gambling category in 2018, gambling on Twitch has soared in popularity over the last year or so. For example, streamer xQc, known offline as Felix Lengyel, only began playing online blackjack in 2021.
From there, he eventually made a sponsorship deal with crypto-gambling site Stake.com, a prominent crypto-gambling site. The site lets users gamble cryptocurrencies on games of chance like slots and roulette. Now, xQc and streamers like him spend hours every day playing online slot machines live on Twitch. In fact, Bloomberg points out that slots is the seventh most popular Twitch category.
As gambling on Twitch has become more popular, other Twitch streamers have come out against the trend. For instance, Twitch super-star Pokimane has stated that she will not accept gambling-related sponsorships, no matter how lucrative. Another streamer, Mizkif, told Bloomberg that he used to gamble on Twitch but now disagrees with the practice after seeing the negative impact it had on his fans.
Why you should avoid gambling on Twitch
It may seem harmless for wealthy streamers to gamble away their fortunes on Twitch. However, people are impressionable and seeing streamers gamble online encourages them to spend loads of money on gambling themselves. Bloomberg tells the story of Enneric Chabot, a 26-year-old Canadian who lost his life savings to gambling. He says he was encouraged to start playing slots after seeing xQc win big on his streams.
What viewers like Chabot fail to consider is that streamers like xQc and Trainwreck (real name Tyler Niknam) are paid — sometimes millions of dollars — to gamble on sites like Stake. Even music artist Drake got in on the action with a deal to gamble live on Twitch under the username StakeDrake.
Regular viewers have no such funding to offset their losses. That, coupled with the thrill of high-dollar betting, has led viewers like Chabot to lose much more than they can afford.
The reality is that gambling is highly addictive, even when people are told not to do it. Even with a disclaimer at the end of a stream, people can hop into a stream at any time and be influenced. xQc himself admits to having a gambling addiction and continuing to gamble even when not on stream. Plus, the engaged community and exciting atmosphere common to Twitch gambling streams make the habit even more attractive.
Online slots vs. poker
Much of this controversy over Twitch gambling comes from online slot streamers, but what about other types of gambling on Twitch? Anyone at all familiar with gambling will know that slot machine gambling is a game of chance. That means slots streamers are playing the odds with little to no skill involved.
Poker, for instance, is another popular type of gambling on Twitch and is considered a game of skill. You don’t control which cards appear in your hand. However, you can decide what to do with those cards — not to mention the social strategies like bluffing. Poker requires some level of decision-making. Games of chance like slots and roulette function more like high-risk button pushing.
In any case, poker is still a form of gambling, and as such, it poses many of the same risks as other types of gambling.
Though gambling isn’t explicitly banned on the Twitch platform according to the site’s Community Guidelines, there’s speculation that this may change. Bloomberg reports that Twitch is currently looking into the issue of gambling streams to address concerns over scams and other potential harms. Twitch also provides resources for those struggling with gambling addiction.
Already, Twitch bans the use of sharing links or referral codes for gambling companies. This could be a precursor to more extreme restrictions in the future. If that’s the case, building an audience around gambling content could eventually backfire.
As a streamer, it’s up to you whether or not you want to promote gambling to your viewers. Many will argue that viewers are responsible for their own actions; if they lose money gambling after watching a gambling stream, that’s on them — not the streamer. On the other hand, if you do choose to gamble on your stream, you could be encouraging harmful behavior with potentially disastrous results.
Even if it’s something that you personally like to do and can afford to do, realize that you have an influence on your audience. Ask yourself: Do you want that influence to be positive or negative?
Update: Twitch has banned slots, roulette and dice games.