A Blog About Online Gaming and Entertainment Regulations
Twitch Bans Casino Game Links in First Step Toward Improved Regulation of Gambling Content
Video game streaming platform Twitch has issued a new rule prohibiting the sharing of links and referral codes to sites offering certain casino games, signaling an increased focus on a gambling streaming market that had caught fire in recent months.
“To prevent harm and scams created by questionable gambling services that sponsor content on Twitch, we will prohibit sharing links and/or referral codes to sites that offer slots, roulette, or dice games,” Twitch told users in an August 11 update.
The new policy is a logical first step for the company as more of its most popular streamers have signed sponsorship deals with gambling websites since the spring—even as unlicensed operators saturate the online market and gambling promotion threatens the standing of all Twitch streamers.
In July, Wired reported that several of Twitch’s top streamers had ventured into gambling streams, taking in hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of dollars to stream casino games available on sponsors’ websites. Along with agreeing to stream sponsors’ slots and blackjack games, streamers could further monetize their streams by posting links and codes that would attract viewers to their sponsors’ sites.
While certain streamers have made substantial profits streaming casino games and sharing referral codes, the development hasn’t been uniformly welcome in the streaming community.
Some prominent streamers have expressed concern that the proliferation of gambling streams could lead to real-world harm to Twitch’s users, around a fifth of whom are between 13 and 17 years old. Compounding the worry that casino-game streaming could encourage underage gambling, many of the sites that have sponsored streams on Twitch are not licensed in the United States, meaning that U.S.-based users (including the streamers themselves) are not permitted to play games on those sites and do not benefit from the consumer protections that licensed operators are required to implement.
Things came to a head in June, when one user’s poker stream landed Twitch on a list of prohibited websites maintained by the Slovakian Office for the Regulation of Gambling. As a result, Twitch is banned outright in Slovakia. In the ensuing weeks, users raised concerns that other countries could start to introduce disciplinary measures in response to unregulated gambling content on Twitch—and if Slovakia’s response is an example, those steps could affect Twitch’s entire base of streamers.
Rather than shutting off the tap immediately, Twitch has given streamers until August 17 to pause the sharing of links and referral codes to online casino sites. More importantly, the site’s new rule is an interim measure, as Twitch wrote that it would “continue to monitor gambling-related content and updated [its] approach as needed.”
Importantly, the new rule does not ban gambling content entirely; rather, it specifically limits streamers’ ability to share referral links with viewers. Twitch continues to maintain several gambling-related stream categories, including Poker and Virtual Casino.
And by hitting the pause button on referral links, Twitch has given itself time to develop a sensible, long-term policy for regulating gambling content on its platform. Cutting off sponsored links could represent an opening salvo in a larger battle against scammers and unregulated gambling sites: because Twitch continues to allow the streaming of casino games, it has more work to do in navigating the minefield of unlicensed gambling sites looking to promote their products on the platform.
As those companies find themselves less and less welcome on Twitch, legal sites and affiliates—which come complete with government oversight and consumer protections—will find more traction among Twitch streamers and viewers.