Seeing someone’s work “abruptly ended” by something they can’t control is “never enjoyable” stated Chris Scicluna, CEO of Livespins, yet he stressed Twitch’s recently announced rule tightening is a “good thing for everyone”.
Responding to Twitch’s statement, released late on September 20, which introduced new rules set to be implemented on October 18, will see the streaming platform issue a ban on content from websites offering slots, roulette or dice games that aren’t licensed in the US or other jurisdictions that “provide sufficient consumer protection”.
Included in the announcement were specific citations to operators, such as Stake.com, Duelbits.com, Rollbit.com and Roobet.com, as sites that are prohibited.
Joining CasinoBeats and Scicluna in delving into the streaming platform’s latest rule amendments was Aidan Cliff, Account Manager at Square in the Air, but more importantly, a former streamer on Twitch.
CasinoBeats: What were your initial reactions to Twitch’s announcement on banning unlicensed slots sites?
Chris Scicluna: The interest for live streamed gambling entertainment is enormous. As I mentioned on LinkedIn yesterday, streamers have provided so much innovation to our industry, and for me, it will never be enjoyable to see someone’s work abruptly ended by something they can’t control.
That said, we created Livespins to put the innovation of streaming and all its benefits in the hands of the operator – those that are working diligently to create safe and sustainable play for their customers and who have the tools to do so.
I think the news shocked a lot of the industry and streamers alike, but in the end, this is a good thing for everyone. If we want our industry to thrive, we must be able to anticipate and innovate responsibly regardless of sentiment in the mass media… and that is just what Livespins is doing.
Aidan Cliff: Twitch and many other platforms, such as Facebook, have begun clamping down on gambling streams in general and introducing additional rules to protect an impressionable audience.
They now have the spotlight on influencers’ revenue streams, specifically the recommendation of certain casinos which in turn pay a streamer a rev share, CPA or hybrid deal for promotion and the signing up of new customers.
It has become clear during the rise in prominence of gambling streamers that they have a strong influence over their audience and the promotion of unlicensed casino sites takes advantage of the trust viewers place in them.
I certainly wasn’t surprised by the tightening of rules, but rather by the specifics of it. I think most people can look objectively at certain streamers’ balances and stake sizes and see that it not only represents an illusion of gambling but fundamentally encourages outlandish bet sizes.
If a streamer already has enough influence to encourage play on an unlicensed slot site it can be presumed that their influence may also encourage unrealistic stake sizes to be wagered.
I think the naming of specific operators by Twitch in their latest update shows how prominent and synonymous some of these unlicensed casinos have grown on the platform, and how inherently linked they are to supposed ‘fake’ money streams – along with highlighting how questionable some of their marketing practices have been on the platform.
How do these new rule changes affect yourself and the slot streaming community as a whole?
CS: There’s been a lot of controversy re: Twitch for a long time now. Besides the inability to KYC or ‘age-gait’ the viewers on Twitch, there has also been debate on transparency of funds and whether the streamer is using his/her own money. As well, some of the streamers such as ItsSliker have spoken up about gambling addiction which is likely one of the final straws that pushed Twitch to make their decision.
All of these issues, we as an industry understand much more than any mass media and have built tools and practice to mitigate.
The new rules are positive for Livepsins and the industry overall. Operators have the ability to bring the same streaming entertainment to their own customer base with Livespins. From the very beginning, we have worked relentlessly to deliver pure sustainable entertainment to players all over the globe.
Our streamers are recruited by us, vetted and trained for months on content and responsible gambling. We ensure moderators 24/7 making sure we are building a healthy community.
I hope the streaming community as a whole agrees with me here. In general, this is a very good thing and will ensure they have a stable career for them in the long term. It will be a shock for many, but for those streamers that are successful, they will soon realise that it’s their content that made them successful and can be made available in environments that also protect the players and create a more sustainable experience.
AC: Working directly with gambling influencers to promote titles from Square in the Air’s clientele is a careful balancing act. Both operators and suppliers obviously want their titles to reach as wide an audience as possible, but equally have to distance themselves from ‘fake’ money streamers and those who promote irresponsible gambling to their audience.
These new rules are going to allow streamers who play by the rules set out by jurisdictions and governing bodies to enjoy a rise in viewers, and allow us to promote our client’s games responsibly while streamers maintain the duty of care expected of their viewership.
It has been quite frustrating to see engaging, talented and entertaining streamers be outshone by those promoting unlicensed slot sites who seem to have a never-ending balance to play with and can therefore stream around the clock, distributing content that can be harmful. These new changes will elevate streamers who gamble responsibly and this can only be a good thing for the community as a whole.
What are your thoughts on having an independent regulator to handle gambling content on streaming platforms? Is this a good move going forward?
CS: It sounds like Pandora’s box. Yes, having one independent regulator sounds simpler but likely not better. Innovation and technology will always be ahead of any kind of regulation so there will always be loopholes to exploit.
Of course, mass media should and will have their own moderators, guidelines and rules, but they will never be able to keep up with 100+ jurisdictions and the compliance required from regulators when it comes to gambling.
AC: It will take some time for streamers to no longer be tarnished with the same brush as some of those who have damaged the overall perception of gambling influencers. Over the years of working with streamers, and initially being one myself, I have seen an array of independent regulators come and go while streamers themselves have endeavoured to work together to build robust verification processes independently.
However, these regulators have never been as successful as they perhaps should be. This is in part due to this lack of trust streamers have now placed on them and multiple unanswered questions asked by the community, such as is the independent regulator truly independent? Do streamers have to show their bank balances to prove deposits moving forward? What are the ramifications if somebody fails a test set by an independent regulator? These are just some of the recurring questions I have seen used as a counterargument to this process.
One thing is clear – our industry is highly innovative – and I suspect that these latest Twitch changes, while on paper, look to limit the promotion of unlicensed slot suppliers, will merely provide a minor additional obstacle for untrustworthy streamers to overcome.
Last year saw Twitch prohibit the sharing of affiliate links on its platform, with gambling influencers simply sending their audience to a third-party website to display them.
I would be surprised if these changes aren’t circumvented in some way, or if guilty streamers simply move onto the next platform on which they can continue their activity. So perhaps an overarching independent regulator is a necessity but how this works and its credibility will be vital to its implementation and success.
What reaction do you expect in the community overall?
CS: I expect after the initial buzz of this news, the community will start to think logically about their businesses and what it means for them going forward. We are already starting to see increased interest from providers and operators.
I anticipate that the community will adapt quickly and realise that we, as the industry, are closest to the customer, and therefore we must be the ones to bring this entertainment to our customers in a responsible and sustainable way.
AC: It feels like it’s been a long time coming and I suspect the positive reception Twitch has received to these changes will encourage other platforms to consider additional changes themselves. The community is, of course, pleased that unlicensed operators will no longer be promoted and untrustworthy streamers that do promote them will be removed from that platform.
If indeed a streamer could afford to play with a million-dollar balance every day on an unlicensed casino, it seems perfectly reasonable for them to now do so on a licensed website and continue to stream and follow these new rules. Unless of course, those funds aren’t genuine.
From the industry’s perspective, this can only be a good thing. Limiting the promotion of unlicensed irresponsible gambling practices will help build the trust audiences and the streaming community have for gambling streamers, and make it easier to promote both supplier and operators’ products and services in a more responsible manner as standard.