Online gambling (icon image): Casino streams are quite popular on Twitch
Photo: welcomia / IMAGO
The streaming portal Twitch is best known for the fact that young people watch broadcasts of games like "Fortnite" there.
Anyone who thinks that only classic video games can be seen on the platform, which belongs to the Amazon retail group, should watch Félix Lengyel aka xQc.
The 26-year-old sits in the chair in front of his computer for hours, chasing four-digit sums through a virtual slot machine at high speed.
He occasionally wins six to seven figures, but most of the time he loses.
It's an eternal wait for a large amount to pop up again.
But the xQc streams are a hit.
On average, around 60,000 people watch the French-Canadian streamer as he gambles in online casinos, which pay him to do just that.
He is currently the most popular English-language streamer on the platform.
On Tuesday, however, xQc learned that Twitch could dry up what is arguably one of its most lucrative revenue streams.
The slight blond man sat in front of his computer for 16 hours that day, commenting on videos from the Internet for his live audience, playing "Call of Duty" and chatting with other streamers.
Then someone sent him a link to a tweet from Twitch.
xQc looked sideways and read, mouth down, eyes slightly squinted.
Twitch had just announced that the platform would publish new regulations in just over a month that would severely restrict gambling streams.
Streams like those of xQc.
The next moment he opened an online casino and once again threw 1000 dollars into a virtual machine.
"28 days, brother," he said, grinning.
It's also an internet phenomenon
For a long time, gambling took place primarily in arcades, casinos or in bars, in typical adult locations, ideally with ID checks.
One thinks of opaque panes, smoke billowing through the air, flashing machines and jingling coins.
But in the age of online casinos, such clichés have had their day: if you want, you can gamble from home with a few mouse clicks, with providers somewhere abroad.
And then there are the casino streamers, who have built a prominent stage for online gambling, which is played around the clock on Twitch - often with minors in the audience.
Some young people use the platform to see what's happening in "Minecraft" or "League of Legends", others are interested in "slots" and thus in a category that was at times one of the ten most popular on Twitch.
Twitch has often been criticized for its gambling broadcasts, especially from the classic gaming community.
After several years, the company has now reacted with a short statement.
According to this, the streaming of slot machines, roulette games and dice games should be banned if there is no US license or a license from other countries with sufficient consumer protection.
In addition, four questionable offers such as Stake.com are mentioned by name.
The platform justifies the step by saying that some streamers illegally gave promotional codes for online casinos to their community.
Poker games and sports betting should remain allowed.
More details are expected to be shared until the policy change on October 18.
Twitch leaves questions unanswered
This announcement was well received by gambling critics, and numerous German streaming greats also spoke up.
"Guys, we did it," Tanzban tweeted.
»OMFG JAAAAAA!!!1!!1!«, Trymacs commented on the Twitch statement.
And Staiy wrote on his Twitter account: »WE FOKIN DID IT PEOPLE!
AFTER ALMOST 4 YEARS THE BUMS IS FINALLY CLOSE.«
However, it remains to be seen whether the joy was premature, because exactly how the Twitch rules will turn out in the end will only be known in October.
A request from SPIEGEL what the announcement means for Germany was initially left unanswered by Twitch.
It is clear that the casino streams are also a lucrative business in this country: for the gambling providers, for the streamers and of course for Twitch itself, which earns its money with advertising and channel subscriptions, among other things.
MontanaBlack and Knossi, two of the German platform icons, made the streams socially acceptable a few years ago.
Sometimes more than 100,000 people watched the two as they gambled online on virtual slot machines.
In 2019, "Monte" and Knossi broke a Twitch record in a joint gambling stream.
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In the meantime, both have renounced online gambling.
There are different statements about the reasons.
In the end it was probably a mixture of many factors: pangs of conscience, public criticism, lost advertising deals, trouble with the German authorities.
From a purely legal point of view, advertising illegal online gambling from Germany is prohibited as long as the casino providers do not have a German license.
But German-speaking fans of the gambling streams get reliable content.
According to their own statements, the German streamers Orangemorange and Scurrows live in Malta.
The island state is considered a paradise for online casino providers because it is willing to issue licenses.
It remains to be seen whether Malta is one of the countries with sufficient consumer protection according to the Twitch definition.
Online casinos offer deals worth millions
What attracts live gamblers to the topic of gambling is obvious: the money.
Stars of the streaming scene regularly report on deals worth millions with which gambling companies lure.
EliasN97 once spoke of "a million" a month, which he waived.
According to MontanaBlack, it turned down a deal for twelve million euros, and one for five million.
The few creators who, despite all the criticism, still promote online casinos today keep the debate going.
At Gamescom, the conflict even erupted in fisticuffs.
A group of young men exchanged wild insults and a scuffle ensued.
Ban on dancing, a loud critic of online gambling, cursed in front of various running cameras, Orangemorange hit uncoordinatedly.
A low point of the German Twitch scene.
Streamer Staiy, who has around 300,000 Twitch followers, has been campaigning against gambling streams for years.
"Greed eats brains," he summarizes his view of the niche.
“Deals were accepted where there was no longer an ethical line.” The streamers who received offers from casinos were already in a privileged position, he tells SPIEGEL: “They earn five or six figures a month.
These people should be able to turn down an offer like this more easily than people who are wondering how they are going to pay their gas bill in the next few months.« Staiy believes that there is something else: The money that the casinos spend on the deals is ultimately that Money from their own viewers, who would be tempted to gamble by the streamers.
Recently, resistance to slots streams has also grown in the United States.
Well-known streamers like DevinNash, Pokimane and Mizkif have raised the issue of a possible boycott of Twitch during the holiday season if the platform doesn't ban gambling.
Twitch's ad revenue is traditionally at its peak during those weeks.
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»I consider casino streams to be relatively dangerous«
The psychologist Werner Gross considers the criticism of the casino streams to be justified.
Gross has written several books on the subject of addiction.
"I think casino streams are relatively dangerous," he tells SPIEGEL.
“People are led to believe that they, too, could win big.” In psychology, that's called model learning.
"Viewers see that and think: 'I could also bet a few cents.'" But the few cents quickly turned into a higher stake.
"It's not the losses that are bad for addiction, it's the gains," says the psychologist.
It's the inner dependency, "dreaming of the big snap," says Gross.
Werner Gross warns that being "close to hand" makes online gambling particularly dangerous.
“I can just gamble on the couch in my pajamas.
Going to the casino or the arcade isn't the threshold.« Statistically, it's mostly young men who are addicted to gambling, says the psychologist.
You should know: According to industry statistics, Twitch users are predominantly male and mostly under 35 years old.
Even the critic has already gambled
Even Staiy, the vocal critic, couldn't entirely escape the appeal of gambling streams, he says.
"I've experienced first-hand how addictive it can be to be presented with something like this," he says.
He watched the Knossi and MontanaBlack streams.
In doing so, he noticed how "the desire to do it himself overcame him," says Staiy.
»As a privileged content creator that I am and was, I could afford it.«
Staiy: The gambling streams from Knossi and MontanaBlack made him gamble himself
Photo: Reach Out/Staiy
The awakening came quickly, in the morning at the hairdresser's, says the now 35-year-old.
"While I was sitting in the chair, I noticed that I had been online at the machine two hours before this appointment," Staiy recalls.
Then he took stock.
The result: in one week he had gambled away around 2000 euros as someone who believed that he was not very prone to gambling.
"That's a good month's wages for someone with a regular job," Staiy says.
"That's when I pulled the ripcord." Twitch's current move is what Staiy calls a "first, important step."
Meanwhile, Twitch's announcement seemed to leave the German casino streamer Orangemorange cold.
As he started his stream on Wednesday afternoon, he joked about his critics' comments.
"If you've done so much that you don't have to worry about money until the end of your life, then it doesn't matter if the casino is banned," said Orangemorange, who himself has already distributed advertising codes to his viewers.
For some time now, the top right corner of his stream has indicated to his audience that gambling can be addictive and that the stream is for entertainment only.
If his deals continued until the policy change on October 18, he could "by definition call himself a multimillionaire," the 29-year-old said live on Twitch on Wednesday.
"I would be very happy about that."