Earlier this month, online streaming giant Twitch announced that links and referral codes shared by users to sites offering slots, roulette and dice games would be banned from 17th August, in the most significant move by the company against the controversial prevalence of slots streams on the site yet.
This new rule, it said, was introduced “to prevent harms and scams created by questionable services that sponsor content on Twitch, we will prohibit sharing links and/or referral codes to sites that offer slots, roulette or dice games”.
First gaining prominence around the late 2010s, the streaming of slots games on Twitch now represents a rather significant proportion of all content on the mega-popular site, which had an average of 26.5 million visitors a day in 2020.
In May, a record-breaking month for slots, viewers watched a massive 35.2 million hours of slots streams, according to TwitchTracker.com.
Streamers of this content previously often monetised it through affiliate links to gambling sites, which granted them a small fee when viewers followed said links and signed up for an account or placed a bet, therefore Twitches banning of affiliate links might have been expected to puncture the profitability of slots streams and streamers.
However, according to Phil Pearson, COO at iGaming Group, who recently launched verifiedstreamer.com to help regularise Twitch streamers and add reputability to the sector, the impact of the measure will be limited.
“They didn’t ban the streams, just the way they advertise”, he clarifies to iGamingCapital.mt.
“Due to the lack of care from streamers regarding age gating, and the general push for volume and viewers over responsibility, [the ban] was only a matter of time.”
Asked what the impact of the ban would be on streamers, Mr Pearson explains with one revenue stream removed, streamers will be moving towards less conventional ways to monetise their content.
For example, he says he expects a lot of deals for exclusivity on what sites people stream. This will involve streamers charging a monthly fee to only stream a specific brand, and this will mean that smaller streamers will struggle to make money and many will likely die off, he predicts.
“They haven’t solved the problem, just removed an income source”, he says, so streams will remain popular, but will have to explore new ways to make money.
Asked then whether he thinks the move has actually pushed the drive to regularise slots streaming backwards, Mr Pearson says he thinks it pushes it sideways but not backwards.
“What this achieves is removing some streamers who are purely profit-based, as a whole side of their income will go, but there are still ways around the ban, including through links in text chats and directions to their own websites, meaning it will just slow down the [monetisation of slots streams], not stop it.”
Instead of this restriction, Mr Pearson argues that the only way to truly regulate the sector would be through the introduction of KYC (know your customer) on slots for confirming viewers are adults and verifying logins for the viewer.
“This would remove bots and at-risk people, and could be tied in with [responsible gambling tools] gamban or Gamstop to prevent responsible gambling issues relating to at-risk players seeing content and possible casinos they can play at, sidestepping other security measures”.
Looking to the future, Mr Pearson says he expects that regulators will still be required to get involved in the sector “at some point”, but that “they just don’t really know how to yet as it involves a [young] medium they don’t fully understand.
“This is pure speculation at this point, but there would need to be a joint discussion held later at some point to plan how they can do that”, he added.
From Twitch’s perspective at least, the company has not ruled out further restrictions on its gambling streams, saying: “We will continue to monitor gambling-related content and update our approach as needed”.
Regarding VerifiedStreamer in particular, Mr Pearson says Twitch’s new rule might change how it operates technically, affecting how it verifies streamers, but this won’t be anything too “significant”.
For the moment, uptake to the service is good, and it is verifying 10 plus streamers at the moment, with five completed, although this process is lengthy considering streamers are “quite busy” and the checks required are particularly thorough.
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