Gambling is all over Twitch right now. Streamers are gambling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tens, if not hundreds of people are watching. Most of those are children or teens. What are the implications of that?
Slots machines are meant to keep you hooked, having shinny, bright colors, and promising immense gain without too much effort. The only thing that you are required to do is to keep putting in the money, while believing that you actually have a chance of getting rich.
In our society where wealth accumulation for those at the bottom is more difficult than ever, gambling looks like a chance for someone to get rich. In certain communities, just like my home country, Romania, gambling advertisements are impossible to avoid. Not only do they cover entire gambling with messages encouraging us to play the slots machines, but they also sponsor tons of cultural production and sports events.
Being exposed to gambling outside the doors of the casino isn’t something new. For the entirety of my childhood, I used to see poker championship being shown on live television, while blackjack and roulette streams could be found online. In recent years, gambling has adapted to the newer technologies and moved into the online realm, in order to maximize their gains and exposure.
In the past weeks, gambling games and slots have been getting more traction on the online-streaming platform, Twitch. Top video games streamers, such as xQc, Trainwrecks or Adin Ross have been incorporating gambling segments in their daily streams. They show themselves playing slots, placing huge bets ($150, $450 and even larger in some cases) showing how easily it is for one to accumulate a lot of money, and lose parts of it quickly.
The problem is that those streams are sponsored and the money that we see those players betting is not often theirs. The gambling companies reached out to them, offering an attractive deal in exchange for a couple of hours of gameplay. According to a statement given by Keith Whyte, Executive Director at the National Problem Gambling Hotline, for Paste Magazine: “A lot of what you see, in those Twitch streams are people that are essentially affiliate marketers, they’re getting paid commission.”
The money that those people are being offered can often be more than their entire earnings in one month of streaming, making it attractive to stream a couple of hours of gambling. Another game streamer, Mizkif, came out saying that he was offered $35.000 dollars an hour to stream himself gambling on the company’s website. $35.000 dollars an hour to have someone play the slots machines, giving its audience the incentive to consider, if not even outright start playing the slots.
Gambling on Twitch got so big in the past weeks, that any time I would log in to watch some streamer play GTA, I would see hundreds of thousands of people watching others gamble. The implications of that are still unknown, but from an initial judgement, I fear that those streams will encourage the audience, usually made up of younger people or outright kids, to consider gambling as a legitimate activity.
According to Journal of Gambling Studies article by Delfabbro and Griffiths, increased exposure to gambling in a population increases the prevalence of gambling and gambling-related problems. Thus, the streams of xQc and Trainwrecks aren’t just innocent activities, where one can just simply watch without feeling the urge to play.
By placing ourselves in the shoes of a kid who doesn’t have a lot of money, but idolizes those streamers and is aware of their expensive lifestyle, we might be tempted to think of gambling as a way of producing the required money to afford their way of living We witness our celebrity idols wearing top-notch brands, driving expensive cars, and we think of that as being the realization of success.
In being bombarded with consumerist ideals and product placements, we fall trap to the ideal that in order to fulfill our lives, we must be wearing certain brands, and live as luxuriously as possible. In aspiring for this lifestyle, gambling can very much present itself as being an easy way to accumulate a lot of money in a short time. And if our favorite streamers are gambling, why shouldn’t we?
With our minds being infatuated by brands and a consumerist-centered lifestyle, little do we know, but slots aren’t made for us to win. And those streamers that are rolling high-bets and winnings hundreds of thousands, are doing that on promotional contract. Winning at slots as a way to accumulate wealth happens once in a million, and more often than ever, those that play, lose even more.
In a tweet published two weeks ago, Asmongold, one of the biggest World of Wacraft streamers called out Twitch for allowing gambling on its platform. He said that gambling streams must be banned, being concerned about the amount of damage gambling streams could provoke over a prolonged amount of time.
Without a clear education on consumer culture and gambling, Twitch and other streaming platforms should take steps in protecting the youth from falling trap to the lifestyle. For streamers who sign high-value contracts, it is easy to wash their hands off, and say that they are not to blame for the kids who start thinking about gambling. But by saying they are not to blame, while the youth is rolling the dollars in the casino, the problem is only masked, gently pushed under the rug.
Twitch needs to ban gambling streams full stop
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
— Zack (@Asmongold) June 25, 2021
This article was originally published as part of Radu Stochiţă’s newsletter on Games, Politics and Labour. You can subscribe to his newsletter here.
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Radu Stochița is an international student at Bowdoin College, in the History & Sociology department. He is currently the creator, editor and distributor of the Left Porch podcast, focused on bringing people from various fields into conversation on topics of work, unions, workmanship, etc. He is passionate about intellectual and working history, with great attention paid to the study of ideology and its influences on them. He describes himself as writing in the Althusserian tradition, being very inspired by his mentor, Salar Mohandesi.