Twitch Streamers Rake in Millions With a Shady Crypto Gambling Boom

Twitch’s terms of service prohibit illegal activity on its website and ask users to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines on advertising. That said, it does not specifically ban gambling streams. Crypto gambling is flourishing on Twitch, frankly, because it is allowed to. By contrast, livestreaming competitors YouTube and Facebook Gaming prohibit streaming online gambling sites that have not been previously reviewed. Twitch also has gambling-related categories, such as slots, which have no age limit to prevent younger viewers from watching. (Some stream titles say “18+.”)

Twitch told WIRED, “We strictly prohibit illegal content and activity on the service, and take action in all verified incidents of illegal gambling that are reported to us. Our Community Guidelines make clear that ‘[Streamers] must respect all applicable local, national, and international laws while using our services. Any content or activity featuring, encouraging, offering, or soliciting illegal activity is prohibited.’” The company adds that its goal is to foster “a safe, positive experience for all users of our service” and that it is “closely monitoring gambling content.”

Twitch has had to deal with gambling-related controversies on its platform before. Years ago, top streamers gambled with cosmetics from the first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. So called “skins gambling” was an unregulated frontier that soon became massively popular—and filled with allegations of foul play. The first Twitch streamer to reach 1 million, and later 2 million, followers was Tom “Syndicate” Cassell. Cassell drew in huge audiences gambling and winning big on the site CSGOLotto.com, but he also reached a settlement with the FTC in late 2017 for failing to disclose his status as vice president of CSGOLotto.com while promoting it.

Streamer Moe “m0E” Assad, who was sponsored by the skin-gambling site CSGO Diamonds, played with house money without disclosing it to viewers. CSGO Diamonds also later admitted that it told Assad the outcome of games in advance so he could fix the results. Gaming celebrity Richard “FaZe Banks” Bengston, co-owner of esports team FaZe Clan, recently said he made $200,000 a day running his own skin-gambling site, which was incorporated on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive publisher Valve cracked down on skin-gambling sites in 2016, sending cease-and-desist notices to 20 websites.

Prominent figures from the skins-gambling scene are now getting involved in crypto casinos. Assad has been gambling on Twitch since last year; now that gambling has blown up on Twitch, he is making bank with his Roobet sponsorship between games of the first-person shooter Valorant. Bengston, 29, is also sponsored by Roobet. A native on YouTube, Bengston made his Twitch debut early last month alongside crypto gambling streamer Adin Ross. He played slots on Roobet, and he spoke highly of his sponsor: “They treat us so well, fly us out to Mexico for these things. Full compliance, by the fucking books baby.” (Speaking on Bengston’s behalf, FaZe Clan declined to comment.)

On his stream from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Bengston’s account starts with $15,000 in Bitcoin. He’s playing “Mines” (think Minesweeper, but with cryptocurrency stakes). 40,000 people are watching. His first bet is $2,000. He blows through the $15,000 in 40 seconds. “I need to ask them for more bread,” says Bengston. “We’re gonna pretend that just didn’t happen.” In his next round, $7,000 becomes $0 immediately. Dismissing Mines, Bengston switches to Slots. There’s $15,000 in his account. The Roobet window is not onscreen between when he loses all his money and money enters the account. At the end of the stream, he is up $203,000. He gives thousands in Roobet funds to his viewers.

While still in Mexico, Bengston got a Roobet tattoo live on Twitch. “Use code ‘fam,’ baby. I don’t fucking play games.”

Updated 7-14-2021, 1:55 pm EDT: This story was updated to clarify that neither Felix Lengyel nor Matthew Rinaudo responded to WIRED’s requests for comment before publication.  


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