On Saturday, a Twitch streamer named Abraham Mohammed, better known to viewers as Sliker, admitted that he had scammed fans and other content creators out of at least $200,000 to fund his Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gambling addiction. In response, big-name streamers such as Imane “Pokimane” Anys, Matthew “Mizkif” Rinaudo, and Devin Nash have been coordinating a boycott of Twitch during the week of Christmas to protest the platform’s lax policies on gambling streams.
CS:GO contains weapon skins that have real-money value on Valve’s marketplace. Because the rarest skins can be worth thousands of dollars, third-party sites use them as “casino chips” for betting on the outcome of CS:GO matches. As of 2016, the skin-betting market had an estimated worth of $7 billion. Sliker received money from fans and other streamers under the false pretense that his bank account was locked and that he needed to borrow money to prevent his credit score from taking a hit. Streamer Hasan “HasanAbi” Piker was among those who gave Sliker cash after he reached out and asked for help, falsely saying that, among other financial woes and complications, his payments from Twitch hadn’t come through for that month. Piker later said, “I thought he was in need, I thought he legit needed money.” But in Saturday’s video, Sliker admitted that telling people he was simply hard up for cash had been a ruse.
In a tearful confession video, Sliker told his viewers that he’d started gambling with CS:GO skins, but eventually moved on to betting with real money. He initially used money from his first job and “all” of his Twitch income, but it wasn’t enough for him. He started borrowing money from other streamers, lying to them about why he needed the money and what the funds would be used for. In the video, he promised that he would eventually pay all his creditors back.
“I deserve punishment. Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I don’t know what to say to the people I borrowed from…this is the epitome of gambling. I want to say don’t touch it.”
Popular streamers Pokimane, Mizkif, and Devin Nash have been discussing the responsibility of Twitch itself to take action against gambling streams, which some feel are manipulative to viewers and perhaps particularly harmful to young viewers. In a joint stream, they mentioned that some streamers made money from promoting gambling, and that gambling was one of Twitch’s most popular categories. Mizkif, attributing the idea to his acquaintance, the politics streamer Destiny, suggested that 10-20 content creators with large followings should send a joint statement to Twitch. Either the platform should take a stance against gambling streams and sponsorships, or they will go on strike during the week of Christmas. Kotaku reached out to Twitch, but did not receive a comment in time for publication.
Of course, not all streamers engaged in the conversation share this point of view. Tyler Faraz “Trainwreck” Niknam, himself a slots streamer, tweeted that “the real problem” was the people blaming slots, blackjack, and roulette rather than the individual. He argued that sports betting is normalized, but conceded that the practice of streamers conducting giveaways by using codes that require viewers to engage in gambling is “predatory,” as is highlighting gambling wins while hiding losses on stream. However, he pulls in significant amounts of money with his own lucrative gambling streams and sponsorships. Trainwreck had previously lent Sliker $100,000.
Meanwhile, some content creators, seeing the mobilization from influential streamers around gambling, are disappointed that some of Twitch’s biggest names have been much more silent on other issues. “Where was this energy during hate raids?” asked Tanya DePass (Cypheroftyr), a content creator and activist. “Where is it for the constant racism, homophobia, transphobia & misogyny on the platform?”
Indeed, content creators seem to be much quicker to attribute the misfortune to systemic problems this time. “[Gambling] is a platform problem, not a people problem,” tweeted Devin Nash. “Create the environment for [unaccountable streamers] to thrive and they will appear.”