iGaming Laws for Laymans: Legality of Twitch gambling streams.
If you remember when online gambling websites first came along, you
know that in the beginning, it was a virtual free for all. There were
no legality issues. You either crossed your fingers and gambled
online, or you didn’t. Operators either peddled their wares in
respectable fashion, or they didn’t. The entire industry was run on
reputation and respectability.
After a while, governments began to take notice. They realized how
much money was flowing between citizens and iGaming websites. Some
took the initiative to creative regulatory laws and capitalize on
that revenue, while others took the swift, ax-wielding approach,
declaring online gambling illegal.
A few years ago, the Twitch.tv live streaming service was
given a similar choice to make. In it s earliest days, there was no
question of legal or illegal. Online gambling was legal in many
jurisdictions, therefore it was presumably legal to stream gambling
via Twitch channels. Then, governments got involved in some of the
activities that were being streamed, and the question quickly rose…
Are Twitch Gambling Streams Legal?
For the most part, yes, it is perfectly legal to stream online
gambling activities over Twitch, so long as you abide by a few simple
rules. First of all, the gambling activity you’re partaking in must
be legal – not just legal somewhere, but legal in the jurisdiction
from which you’re streaming it. Second, you must abide by
Twitch.tv’s terms of service.
The issue of jurisdictional legality arose in 2016 when a famous
Twitch video game streamer James Varga, a.k.a. Phantoml0rd,
became entangled in a nasty little mess over his CS:GO website and
streaming activities. He was helping to run, and actively promoting,
what boiled down to gambling on CS:GO skins. Members of the website,
which he was blatantly advertising on his channel, could pay for
entries with a chance to win skins; an activity that is no different
than raffle-style gambling. And that, my friends, was determined to
be 100% illegal – both in unlicensed concept, and as a Twitch
Varga Case Changes Landscape of Gambling on
Upon banning Phantoml0rd from its live broadcasting website, Twitch
immediately consulted a legal team to help revise its streaming terms
and conditions. Any form of illegal gambling was already off the
menu, but Twitch extended its restrictions to avoid controversy over
gambling advertisements, as well.
Legal forms of gambling can be displayed on Twitch, however, the
rules stipulate that gambling-related streams cannot exceed more than
30 consecutive minutes. It’s not about turning off the stream and
restarting. The rule is that the broadcasting game play can’t be 30
or more minutes of consecutive gambling. The streamer can simply
switch from real-money to play-money gaming for a few minutes, and
then switch back for up to 29 more minutes.
As I said above, the purpose with this rule is to avoid blatant
advertisement of gambling, which could theoretically induce gambling
and, therefore, lead to possible gambling addiction among viewers.
Warning Message + Viewer Consent
It’s also required that the streamer set his or her content to
display a ‘mature audience’ message. No viewer will be able to
see the stream without verifying that they are of legal age in their
jurisdiction. All it takes is clicking a button, but this indemnifies
Twitch and the streamer from any legal recourse, should a minor lie
about their age to gain access to the stream.
Raffles, Giveaways and Gambling Licenses
The above rules apply more to streamers who gamble at real money
gaming websites, such as casinos, poker rooms, bingo halls, etc, and
stream their experiences to viewers on the web. There are additional
rules, however, applied to gambling when it’s the viewers
themselves who stand to gain something of value.
If a streamer hosts a raffle, for example, they cannot require
viewers to pay for entry/entries into the raffle. There can be no
increased odds of winnings for subscribers who have donated money to
the Twitch channel. Furthermore, the host of the raffle must have a
valid remote (online) gambling license to set up such a giveaway.
Most streamers do not possess such a license, so these are extremely
rare to begin with.
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