Gambling streams are not something very new on Twitch. For years, streamers have wasted money on slot machines and poker, usually in conjunction with casino websites and other betting companies. Though it is legal on Twitch, these channels have a history of engaging in shady behavior. Recently, some of the big names on Twitch have chosen high-rolling lifestyles, leading other huge names to question whether they’re driving impressionable fans to this road.
Gambling has become a popular pastime of Twitch’s top echelon, with streamers like Félix “xQc” Lengyel, Tyler “Trainwrecks” Niknam, and Adin Ross getting in on the betting action. Legal gambling is allowed on Twitch, with the site sporting official sections for slots and poker. In several cases, gambling streams are the outcome of sponsorships from businesses with excessive skin in the game, who often provide streamers with referral codes and money to blow during broadcasts. While streamers are expected to disclose sponsored ads, they do not always note that they’re being given funds with which to gamble. They continue to sink hundreds or thousands of dollars into slot machines on sites like Stake, a site whose terms of service prohibit US-based users from playing due to gambling laws. However, some people get around this by using VPNs.
Big money streams make for tight viewing punctuated by the odd $400,000 payout, but also content that is very straightforwardly advertorial in reality. In short, gambling streams give streamers with high-stakes broadcasts and gambling businesses with long-form ads watched by thousands of viewers.
That last part is a big point of discussion among streamers. Gambling can be addictive, and it is illegal in some places. Advertising gambling websites means essentially encouraging people to gamble. This has happened in months of criticism aimed at the likes of Lengyel and Niknam.
“I see gambling’s become kinda fucking big these days,” popular streamer and YouTuber Charles, “Moistcr1tikal” White said during a stream back in April. “I was watching, and it seems a bit dangerous, I think, when you see one of your favorite streamers get a huge payday and you’re, like, an impressionable 15 [or] 16-year-old.”
“Twitch needs to ban gambling streams full stop,” Twitch World of Warcraft kingpin Asmongold said on Twitter last week. “The amount of bullshit and pitfalls this is going to create in the next 6 months will fuck the website in so many ways we don’t even realize yet. Just looking at EU gambling laws, anyone could see this will not end well.”
Not everybody outside the slot machine gambling meta is completely against it. Ludwig Ahgren—who famously streamed for 30 days straight earlier this year—sometimes does sponsor poker streams and believes that it only becomes a problem when “it’s perceived that the person is gambling their own money, but they’re instead gambling money they were paid for.” Over the weekend, he defended gambling in response to criticism from speedrunner and streamer Clint Stevens.
“Does he not fucking get that people’s careers on Twitch last literally, like, years, and then it goes away?” Ahgren said. “A few fucking years.”
While not directly responding to Ahgren, Imane “Pokimane” Anys, one of the most successful female streamers on Twitch, took aim at the idea that it’s important for big streamers to bet the house on betting streams.
“Let’s be honest: If you’re getting an offer from a casino sponsorship, you’re already a multi-millionaire,” Anys said during a stream over the weekend. “You need to be a multi-multi-millionaire? I feel like once you get to a certain point of wealth, you have so many options available to you to generate more income. Like, you are so insanely privileged. Even just investing properly. Not even looking at what you’re investing in and putting it in a random vanguard-whatever fund and letting it sit—you’re making free money. I feel like it would be a good idea for people to sit down at that point and be like, ‘What am I OK with doing? What is ethically or morally maybe just not worth it?’”
Anys also called on Niknam, specifically, to acknowledge the “other side of a taking”—namely, that gambling comes with many downsides. Back in May, Niknam actually did this. While gambling.
“You should not gamble,” he said at the time. “No cap, you should not gamble. Just watch me gamble. Don’t gamble. This is very bad. You’re going to lose, you’re going to get fucked. The same advice I give for this, I give for even crypto investing. Whatever money you put into crypto or gambling or whatever the hell, assume it’s already gone.”
In a true characteristic of this whole trend, however, he managed to spin this into an ad for his referral code, which ups the “rakeback”—or regular repayment of a portion of entry fees—of those who use it on the betting site in question. He that only “degens” who already gamble use the code.
“Everyone else, do not fucking gamble,” Niknam said. “I’m telling you: It will ruin your fucking life.”
More recently, Niknam has defended his gambling streams as “authentic and transparent” and has taken aim at streamers who use “fake balances” to “eliminate the risk of losing their own money.” He also said on Twitter that he gambles off-stream “because I actually love gambling.”
In his own life, Lengyel seems to think that the last part has become an obstacle. Though he previously brushed off complaints surrounding his gambling streams, he began singing a different tune early this month.
“I get addicted to things very, very, very easily,” Lengyel said during a June 1 stream. “I noticed that my brain’s kinda going crazy. So I have to stop [gambling].”
However, he continued streaming slots just a bit over a week later. Earlier today in his own Twitch chat, he once again said that he will quit.
“I wanna stop [gambling] for good,” he wrote. “I’m taking my shit out. I’m gonna force myself to. I’ma withdraw it, put it on a physical and lock it away.”