An Irresponsible Illusion?
The weird world of casino streaming
One of the beautiful things about social media is that there is basically a space for everyone. Want to watch videos of people cutting their toenails? You can easily find some cuticle-themed fun. Want to debate how the earth is most definitely flat? There’s a space for you. Want to see photos of bread stapled to trees? You’ll find a sub-reddit devoted to the “project”. Anyway, you get the picture – anything goes.
However, there is an increasing presence on social media, particularly YouTube and Twitch, of gambling streams. As you might expect, it features a streamer playing online casino games, usually for high stakes. The trend is interesting for several reasons. First, it’s a lot more popular than you might think; you’ll find streams with millions of views. Secondly, though, it shines a light on the best and the worst of social media and the internet age in general. By that, we mean there are questions over morality, legality, responsibility and fakery.
Streams can involve millions of dollars
In order to be fair to the streamers, we aren’t going to pick on any individual account here. But if you want evidence of what it looks like, simply to do a search for “casino streamer” and have a look. Regardless, you will have a good impression of what it is like. A streamer will play high-stakes casino games (usually slots). The videos will often be curated to show highlights, or follow certain rules like a “$10K to $100K challenge”. Those sums are not exaggerated, but he way. You can find streamers who play for upwards of $1 million.
Nonetheless, part of the excitement for the viewer is that they watch the streamers play for high stakes. Many of the games they play are volatile slots, which are capable of suddenly awarding 1000s of times the stake. It’s sometimes hard to imagine what it would feel like to win the lottery. But this gives people access to a live reaction of someone winning a fortune, sometimes millions. You can understand that it offers some appeal.
Videos can be seductive
But here’s the rub: there is a disconnect from what happens here and real stories of people winning casino jackpots. It might seem novel to see a streamer win $500K, but they will be back the next day, and the day after that. Moreover, that starts to create the ethical problem we mentioned earlier. The important word here is “curation”, as nobody wants to watch the grinding part of the video, i.e., where the streamer is playing spin after monotonous spin. The viewers want to see the highlights – the big wins.
And, if we have a situation where these videos are only showing the big wins, then that creates a misconception about the reality of gambling. Now, we want to be fair to the streamers, so we should make the following points clear: Some streamers do live streams (certainly not all), giving them the ability to show the downside too. In addition, some try to be very transparent about their losses, even going as far as showing banking information. But we can’t shake the perception that it mostly portrays gambling as a way to make money. After all, many of these accounts stream full-time.
Now, it should also be made clear that many of these accounts are affiliate marketers, working in partnership with certain casino brands. If you sign up through their account on social media, they will receive a commission from the casino. Of course, they will also earn revenue from YouTube or Twitch. But spending thousands on gambling on a daily basis, with no repercussions? It feels like an illusion. And for some critics, it is an illusion.
Criticism comes from within social media
You see, alongside the casino streaming videos, you’ll also find a sub-genre of content – the casino streaming conspiracy videos. In short, many of the accounts have been called out for being fake, and there are internet sleuths keen to prove it. The accusations can vary, ranging from the use of demo accounts made to look real to being bankrolled by the casino to play and showcase the good times. Some of the conspiracy videos are compelling, and you’ll get back and forth from the casino streamers who are at pains to show their content is real. We won’t pass judgement on that, but it’s enough to say that nobody could realistically make a living on playing high stakes slots every day.
In the end, though, it’s like everything else on the internet; we have bad actors and good actors. The latter group shows their work, makes it clear that gambling long term is more likely to lead to a loss, and even provides information on gambling support. Indeed, we have seen plenty of comments from viewers who say they watch these videos instead of gambling themselves. It should also be noted that many of these account foster a sense of community.
But there are also those who are clearly acting irresponsibly, glorifying gambling in a way that would not be possible on mediums like television or print journalism. That’s problematic. These videos are seductive. And while YouTube and Twitch have brought in some policies – such as the publishing of links to casinos – there is little in the way of regulation. Yes, social media is supposed to be a space for free speech. But this irresponsible illusion should be getting a lot more criticism.