Twitch has pledged to prohibit live streams of high profile gambling sites from next month, sending shockwaves through the sector and leaving many unanswered questions.
Live gambling streams are a mega money business on the Amazon-owned streaming platform.
Some of its most popular content creators live stream for tens of hours a day while playing slots and casino games on Curacao-licensed sites including Stake.com and Roobet.
Those sites, which are not licensed in the US or subject to the same levels of consumer protection standards, will now be banned from the platform on 18 October 2022, according to an official statement posted to the Twitch Twitter account at 11pm on 20 September.
An update on gambling on Twitch. pic.twitter.com/lckNTY9Edo
— Twitch (@Twitch) September 20, 2022
The tweet has since gone viral, earning 37,000 retweets at the time of writing.
Gambling on Twitch has inspired some major online controversies in recent times, despite being promoted by high profile celebrity ambassadors and influential content creators.
For example, Canadian rap star Drake – arguably the most successful commercial musician of the last decade – regularly streams live while placing bets with cryptocasino operator Stake.com, which has never been licensed in Canada or the US.
Twitch’s most watched streamer of the last two years is Canadian personality Félix “xQc” Lengyel. In 2021, his streams amassed nearly 275 million hours of views.
xQc regularly goes live with gambling streams. He places huge wagers, often more than $100,000 per spin.
There are transparency issues with gambling streams like this.
Often, the casino operator will fund the streamers so they aren’t gambling with their own money. This makes them more likely to adopt risky playing behaviours or bet more than they can afford. But this is not always obvious or apparent to their audience.
Speaking of audience, age-gaiting is another major concern when it comes to Twitch and gambling. According to Twitch, the average age of a user is 21, with an estimated 20% of global users aged between 13- and 17-years-old – and therefore too young to gamble.
The most recent controversy – and indeed the one that appears to have broken the camel’s back – unravelled earlier this week and centred around Manchester-based content creator ItsSliker.
It transpired that ItsSliker had borrowed money from other popular Twitch streamers to fund his gambling addiction and never managed to pay them back.
He asked for the money, often under false pretences, and gambled it away on online casino games.
When the news came to light, some of the most influential personalities on Twitch – including Pokimane, Mizkif, and Devin Nas – threatened to go on strike and stop uploading videos until gambling sponsorship was banned on the platform.
They have been heard loud and clear, according to the latest statement from Twitch, which name-checked high profile sites such as Stake.com, Roobet and Duelbits, among others.
ItsSliker: “I’m going to fix my addiction. I don’t need to explain how big it is. It has made me into an ill person. It has made me into an evil person.”
ItsSliker has been offline since his last upload two days ago, which was filmed before Twitch made its move to ban certain gambling sites.
“I want to say I’m going to go to rehab. I’m going to fix my addiction,” said ItsSliker on camera. “I don’t need to explain how big a thing it is. It has made me into an ill person. It has made me into an evil person.”
Several leading streamers, including the aforementioned xQc, have now vowed to pay off the people he scammed.
As the news of the ban filtered through last night, casino streamer Roshtein was in the middle of a live stream while playing slots on Stake.com.
Roshtein boasts more than 1.1 million followers on Twitch. As the live chat informed him of the message from Twitch, he sat silent for the most part with his head in his hands. He repeatedly said, “oh my god”, before asking: “What does that mean for us?”
He then suggested YouTube as an alternative streaming platform.
Streamers will understandably be looking for alternatives from 18 October. It is a major source of income to most, and there is also insane demand for live slots streams.
One option could see streamers come together to create their own casino gambling platform. This would allow them to circumvent the rules and regulations as it would most likely be run by an entity entirely separate to Amazon or Google.
Watch this space.
Crunch time for sport stars’ data
The Mail+ revealed this week that former Cardiff City manager Russell Slade is leading a £500m lawsuit against the gambling industry relating to the use of professional athletes’ data.
Since joining Stevenage as a managerial consultant in 2020, Slade has devoted his time to the cause, the article said, in a mission to ensure footballers and other athletes can regain control of the data routinely collected on them to measure and improve performance.
That data, he alleges, is too often sold on without prior consent, usually ending up in the hands of sports betting operators who use it to improve their statistical analysis and odds making.
“People are making millions out of these footballers who have rights under UK legislation,” Slade told The Mail+. “Companies are abusing these rights and players need to get back control. We think we have a strong case.”
According to the article, under existing UK data protection law the personal data collected on athletes belongs to them as individuals and not to the companies collecting it.
However, companies licensed by the Premier League, English Football League and Scottish Premiership are invited by clubs to install various devices to collect information on players’ performance, and some are accused of selling it on without consent.
Slade and his partners at Global Sports Data and Technology (GSDT) say they have tracked data passed through as many as nine companies, and that usually it ends up somewhere within the gambling industry.
This feeds into an industry processing data on a gargantuan, “Googlesque” scale, the article claims, with GSDT data expert Jason Dunlop stating: “One betting company will have more data scientists than the whole of the Premier League.”
Slade’s lawsuit is now gathering momentum, with sports stars across many disciplines objecting to the sale of their personal data in this way.
The sale of data can even have an impact across the rest of their careers, drifting into the area of scouting where data analysis is becoming increasingly important.
“It could be the difference between a player getting a big move or not,” Slade claimed.
Looking to the future, this case could be a turning point for the sports data industry. If Slade and his supporters are victorious, many companies may have to cease selling personal athlete data to others – or at least, give the athletes their fair fraction of the action.
Gambling tips from a little birdie
ESPN published a feature exploring the sometimes murky world of Gambling Twitter, “an intense battleground, full of bettors, bookmakers, con artists and trolls” according to author David Purdum.
While bettors and bookmakers “lob pot shots” at each other, con artists promising inside information whisper from behind anonymous accounts to take advantage of the gullible, while trolls wait in the wings to hurl abuse at anyone they see as inferior (everyone).
And this could just be the beginning. “People absolutely love it,” Purdum wrote, and as the stratospheric rise of regulated sports betting continues apace across North America, the prevalence of Gambling Twitter is just getting stronger.
According to Twitter, the top hashtag included in sports betting tweets about the Super Bowl in February was #GamblingTwitter – a familiar sight to any punting enthusiasts or figures within the industry who use the social networking site.
“Hashtag Gambling Twitter is a thing,” Mike Dupree, director of media and entertainment for Twitter, told ESPN. “I don’t think we can trademark it, but it is certainly something that has its own identity and community, which has been awesome to see.”
Now, Twitter has released for the first time internal data and commentary on the prevalence of sports betting content on the platform, gathered by Twitter Insiders studies in states where sports betting is legal.
The data suggests Twitter could be the social media platform of choice for big spenders; 62% of bettors on Twitter place wagers weekly and spend 15% more on bets annually compared to bettors on other social media platforms.
Further, 72% of bettors check Twitter to follow the status of their live bets once they’ve been made, and 65% said they are more motivated to place a bet on a big event that everyone is talking about on social media.
However, it’s not just punters who take their tips from Twitter. Veteran Las Vegas bookie Ed Salmons, for example, has been using the platform since 2009 to keep an eye on breaking news and adjust his odds accordingly.
Salmons now constantly monitors his TweetDeck, the article said, often searching the names of quarterbacks to keep tabs on injury statuses.
He’s also careful, however, not to get duped by Twitter tricksters who get their kicks from building profiles that replicate those of mainstream reporters and duping people with fake news.
And it seems Twitter looks to become more important still for bookies and bettors alike. Sports betting is one of the fastest growing areas on Twitter, increasing by 300% over the past four years, an increase comparable to emerging industries like cryptocurrency and NFTs.
So, if you’re looking to take a temperature check on the global sports betting industry, a tweet might just be a good place to start.
DCMS puts its Trusst in Donelan
They say a week is a long time in politics, and the Racing Post caught our eye with a story on one of the many developments over the past seven days which will certainly have caught the eye of the gambling industry.
As well as the UK appointing a new Prime Minister in Liz Truss, who takes over from Boris Johnson after he recently resigned in disgrace, it also has a new leader for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which oversees the gambling industry in the country.
DCMS is one of the UK’s ‘odd jobs’ type departments which ends up with the grunt work none of the other ministries want to do – and one of its primary responsibilities over the past year or so has been to oversee the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Now leading the department is Michelle Donelan, who the Racing Post points out has been a vocal supporter of gambling reform in the past.
In 2018, she gave her support in parliament for government plans to dramatically reduce the maximum stakes on gaming machines in betting shops – from £100 to just £2 – saying it addressed an issue which had “destroyed far too many lives”.
She also asked what could be done to address the “dramatic” increase in gambling advertising, which she claimed was “preying on the vulnerable”.
While this is familiar rhetoric among anti-gambling lobbyists, new PM Truss’ support of small government, anti-nanny state and business positive politics could prove to be at odds with Donelan’s own views.
It should also be pointed out that Damian Collins MP, who was appointed as an under-secretary at DCMS in July this year as the so-called ‘gambling minister’ remains in that role – but it is not clear yet how long he will stay there for.
While no new concrete information has yet been released relating to the Gambling Act review, the industry will be watching on carefully to see what impact Donelan wants to have upon the sector.
PointsBet tweeted on Saturday (19 March) to offer a $10 free bet to any customers experiencing technical problems with the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Reports from users across Twitter appeared to show widespread technical difficulties across the DraftKings platform over the weekend, with customers unable to log in, place or cash out bets.
Many expressed their frustration, given that the outage took place during a major event on the US sporting calendar; basketball tournament March Madness.
We’ve heard a competitor might be having tech issues today…
1) Reply to this tweet with a screenshot of a down app
2) DM us your PointsBet username and include the word 'Issues' in the message
GET A $10 FREE BET 🤑
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 19, 2022
Several customers claimed to have lost money due to the outage as they were unable to access their accounts and cash out existing bets.
While PointsBet opted to tempt disappointed DraftKings customers to its own platform with a bonus, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy also attempted to convert customers to the Barstool Sportsbook, which is owned by Penn National Gaming.
“We welcome all #DraftKings business,” he said in a tweet, though no special promotional offer was forthcoming.
I’m proud to report that once again at #BarstoolSportsbook it's a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. We welcome all #DraftKings business https://t.co/zpkdfqqM37
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) March 19, 2022
DraftKings’ customer support page acknowledged that customers had been having trouble logging in on Saturday, before following up that the issue had been resolved around an hour later.
Realize these are tough situations, especially during the tournament. Customers should be able to log in again now and we appreciate everyone hanging on! https://t.co/SsiiAciTrp
— DraftKings CX Team (@DK_Assist) March 19, 2022
The operator, which runs its sportsbook on the SBTech technology it acquired in 2020, has experienced several outages since migrating onto the platform which have caught the attention of customers and competitors.
DraftKings was one of several US brands to have outages reported in the run-up to 2021’s Super Bowl, although at that time the sportsbook was still powered by Kambi.
The massive increase in betting traffic to Kambi in the run-up to the game saw several of its operator clients’ brands go down, as this was likely one of the highest levels of online betting volume seen in the regulated US market at the time.
Last month, DraftKings reported that it had increased its annual investment in product and technology by 50% in 2021 in order to better compete with rivals FanDuel and BetMGM.
During an investor call following the release of its Q4 and full-year 2021 financial results, CEO Jason Robins told analysts: “I think if you take a step back and look at the competitive picture, we’ve always said that we believe that product is where you win.
“Our strategy [in 2021] was to really pull forward a lot of the product and technology hiring that we needed to do. As we go forward, I think you should expect to see a meaningful slowdown in fixed costs, because for us, it was about trying to pull forward and achieve a higher level of scale, maybe a little ahead of where the revenue is.”
Investment into technology and product in 2021 saw the firm launch several new features on its sportsbook, including a new in-play offering and front-end user interface for its Flash Bet product, as well as parlay and same-game parlay insurance capabilities.
The operator’s share price rebounded somewhat last week, from as low as $15.20 on 14 March to $19.62 at the time of writing.
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins is the subject of a Twitter backlash after suggesting investors could live to rue the day they offloaded shares in the Nasdaq-listed betting operator.
“If you sold #DKNG today, just be aware that my team and I are on a mission to make you regret that decision more than any other decision you’ve ever made in your life,” he said, channelling Liam Neeson’s character in Hollywood blockbuster Taken.
However, Twitter users were quick to respond, with some displaying evidence of Robins offloading DraftKings stock at least once a month between May and November of 2021.
In just seven trades throughout last year, the DraftKings co-founder offloaded shares totalling $91.6m as the business registered a net loss of $1.52bn for the fiscal year.
CEO COMPLAINING ABOUT PEOPLE SELLING HIS STOCK AND HIMSELF SELLING $100 MILLION + WORTH 🚩🚩🚩🚩 pic.twitter.com/xy5Oc9zByU
— Gurgavin (@gurgavin) March 9, 2022
A year prior in 2020, Robins and fellow DraftKings co-founders Mathew Kalish and Paul Liberman were reported to have taken home combined compensation in excess of $600m in cash and equity – nearly $240m of which was paid to Robins as CEO despite the business making a net loss that year of $855.2m.
Kalish, who is president of DraftKings in North America, also capitalised on the DraftKings dip this week.
Robins moved to explain DraftKings’ long-term profitability prospects in last week’s investor day.
When asked if the operator had enough cash on the balance sheet to reach its profitability targets, he said: “If there’s anything I want people to take away from today’s presentation, it’s three things. One is the playbook is working. Two is that if we execute that playbook, we are able to get to profitability. And third is that we have more than sufficient capital on the balance sheet in order to execute that playbook. We have a multi-year plan that we’re executing against that should allow us with cushion to be able to get profitable without changing our playbook at all.”
Some DraftKings investors want Robins to put his money where his mouth is in the form of a major stock purchase. Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg purchased 10,000 shares of his company’s common stock for $710,000 on Wednesday, for example.
Other users have compared DraftKings’ market cap and executive compensation plan with other companies in the space and decided that things don’t quite add up, while others have sprung to Robins’ defence, insisting the stock sales are an ordinary way for executives to pay themselves.
People just don’t understand how CEO’s pay themselves. This is part of his pay plan.
— gucci 💯 (@Guccitap__) March 9, 2022