UK Gambling Commission on the move to limit casino advertising
Casino streams on Twitch and Youtube have been a free-for-all smorgasbord for affiliates ever since emerging as a phenomenon. Argued by many to be an aggressive and misleading form of casino advertising, it may seem remarkable that it has managed to fly under the radar and avoid the ban hammer, especially with both platforms being US-owned companies where gambling laws are stringent. Recent events, however, suggests that the good days for casino streamers might be over in a not too distant future.
Last week, the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) confirmed that a ban will come into force in 2019 that will limit gambling adverts on TV in the UK around pre-watershed live sports broadcasts. No advertisements for casinos will be allowed from five minutes before and after a sporting event and the ban will also see no gambling-related adverts being broadcast around re-runs and highlight programs.
The decision is a direct response to public concerns and a “vital step in order to protect children and vulnerable people from gambling-related harm“, said Jeremy Wright of State Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It’s not all too unlikely that the increased demand for social responsibility now sweeping over the iGaming industry ultimately is going to affect casino streaming as well.
The UK Gambling Commission is not impressed with what they see either. Following an investigation carried out by Eurogamer, a UK game journalist website, it was confirmed that at least two unlicensed online casinos were being promoted by streamers on Twitch. But that’s not all that troubles the commission. In a comment to Eurogamer as part of the investigation, the UKGC said it had been “highlighting the growth in examples where the lines between gambling, social gaming and video games are becoming increasingly blurred“. With in-game loot boxes already being a significant problem in the video game industry, collaborative efforts are already underway to tackle the threat that it poses to minors.
While Twitch has remained a safe haven for casino streamers, Youtube, on the other hand, has been cracking down on streamers on several occasions this year. Yesterday, ABC News reported that Youtube, which up until now has been free from government regulation and censorship, has had to remove 58 million videos featuring hateful and inappropriate content, another fact that may suggest life will not be made easier for casino streamers in the years to come.
Casino streams are problematic for several reasons. For one, it paints an unrealistic image of gambling that may trap viewers into having nonsensible expectations. With access to seemingly unlimited deposit bonuses, cashback and other advantages not available to regular players, the reality of gambling becomes skewed and misleading – and that is without taking all the unscrupulous fake money streamers into account. Also, free spin raffles, cash giveaways and exclusive offers are used by casino streamers to encourage and motivate viewers into signing up to casinos while earning commission on their losses.
While not limited to casino streams per se, although arguably more of an issue when it comes to serious matters such as gambling, viewers are often led to believe that the friendly face behind the screen is their buddy. What you see is not necessarily your regular joe having fun streaming his or her favourite casino games. In reality, casino streaming has become a big industry and an important marketing platform used to build brand awareness. In some cases, streamers are even known to be working directly for the casinos and other major global marketing companies.
It’s undoubtedly a can of worms. With Twitch and Youtube being streaming platforms with heavy focus on live video game content, attracting hundreds of thousands of young adults and minors, the failure to take proper care is heavily criticised by the various sectors advocating responsible gambling. Casino streaming and gambling adverts on TV and radio are both relatively aggressive types of advertising strategies that people all too often are exposed to unwillingly.
What is your view of casino streaming? Does it constitute a problem or is it just entertainment like any other? Share your opinion.