January 25, 2022
Tyler Niknam, 30, the most popular Twitch streamer with 1.5 million followers, was leaving Texas. With his account named Trainwrecks, he was playing online slots non-stop at a non-US crypto-based casino site (his chief Twitch sponsor). Live audiences of more than 25,000 witnessed him walk away with jackpot prizes, some of which amounted to $400,000 in cryptocurrency.
The casino site where Niknam was playing has set a disclaimer that they do not accept US players due to licensing limitations. But twitch steamers like Niknam and other punters from the US bypass the restrictions and gamble anonymously through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Live-streaming gambling activities to a US audience on Twitch is a way of marketing the crypto casino, and this is considered illegal in the country.
In a private Discord message, Niknam suggested to Felix Lengyel, 25, that they need to take their gambling to Canada. Lengyel, the second most popular streamer on Twitch, played online slots on the same cryptocurrency casino for a short while before quitting in June 2021. Niknam insisted that they have to hide their identity while on the casino site. After settling in Canada, Niknam would gamble for more than 12 hours in an empty apartment.
The gambling frenzy exhibited on Twitch seems to have been solicited by the growing number of cryptocurrency casinos. On these platforms, gamblers can buy Ethereum and Bitcoin and use them to wager in table games like baccarat, blackjack, and slots. To promote their services, crypto casinos are stepping up their game by paying popular streamers like Niknam and Lengyel thousands of dollars per hour to play casino games.
Another crypto casino site offered Adin Ross, a famous gambling streamer, about $1.4 - $1.6 million per month to play online slots live on Twitch. But Twitch recently suspended Ross after he was caught using a mobile phone while driving.
Streamers are willing to promote cryptocurrency casinos mainly because the sites have a low or no house edge courtesy of the Ethereum blockchain's cryptographic security. However, they don’t seem to care that part of the audience is not legally allowed to engage in gambling activities.
"I received a $35,000 offer to stream gambling for an hour," added a 26-year-old Matthew Rinaudo, also known as Mizkif. Rinaudo asserted that sponsorships like these are hard to resist, especially when the broadcasts are expected to last more than ten hours throughout the month.
While encouraging gambling with cryptocurrency, the casinos promise online safety since they run on the blockchain. With a guarantee of anonymity, players of any age can carry on with the gameplay.
About 64 of the most followed Twitch gamers have streamed online slots or promoted cryptocurrency casino sites. The trend burgeoned around April and May 2021, with some live streams attracting over 100,000 viewers. Most streamers have access to Twitch's Partner Program, so they enjoy VIP support and special features such as high revenue sharing.
The company claims to be monitoring the gambling content and is looking for streamers who will be role models to the growing community. However, some of their promotions are illegal, given that 21% of their users are aged 13 to 17. Any minor would be lost following these role models because they are probably betting with house money to make crypto gambling seem lucrative.
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