William Barnes: Twitch’s decision is just about protecting players

A month ago, streaming platform Twitch announced it is to tighten up its rules when it comes to gambling content with a ban on content featuring unlicensed slot sites. 

Co-owner of Hideous Slots, European Casino Streaming brand, William Barnes spoke to SBC CIS about the popularity of streaming platforms, the opportunity to make money on them, and how Twitch’s decision will affect the industry.

Recently Twitch, a leading streaming platform, announced a prohibition of streaming of gambling sites that are not licensed either in the US or other jurisdictions. What does this mean for streamers and could it affect the entire gambling industry in the near future?

For myself, this has had little effect, as I’ve always played at regulated casinos. We could see an increase in viewers or interaction if streamers who don’t play at or promote regulated sites are forced to stop streaming, but this seems unlikely. No one has been forced out of a career (or even a hobby) with this move – instead, streamers have to adapt. Those who do play at ‘unregulated’ brands, they must either leave Twitch or change brands, thereby losing the opportunity to create much of the content they previously created, due to decreased maximum stakes at certain brands. 

Obviously, this isn’t as simple as it seems, with sponsorships and exclusivity no doubt playing a big part in the decision-making, but really any streamer passionate about gambling or the community can make it work – and the majority of us won’t be affected by this news.

I don’t think it will affect the industry as a whole, and I certainly don’t think the next step is to wipe gambling from Twitch’s entire platform. I think this is just about protecting players and viewers from exposure to sites that don’t offer safeguarding or protection, and in my opinion, this is achieved through both an earlier decision to ban transactional links (or promo codes for gambling), and now in ensuring only regulated sites are shown on Twitch. Whether Twitch would take this further in the future, I’m not sure. 

Besides Twitch, what other platforms can be used for streaming? The first thing that comes to mind is Youtube, which also has restrictions. How do the iGaming companies try to cover the restriction risks?

There are actually a lot of platforms available for streaming, and if you were really passionate about streaming to your core audience (who will probably follow you anywhere), you could just build your own platform. Finding somewhere to show the stream isn’t the difficult bit – it’s finding somewhere where your stream and channel can see growth through being suggested to viewers who watch similar content and appearing on homepages. 

The likelihood of someone coming to a platform or website specifically to watch your stream is so much lower than YouTube or Twitch, which people browse regularly. Very few people only use these platforms to watch streamers or gambling content, which is why they work so well – they’re popular in general. For this reason, I think the only platform that works aside from Twitch is YouTube, which on a personal level has actually performed better for me than Twitch.

Streaming is quite popular among gamers and gamblers, the global audience exceeds 100 million. Why is it so attractive and why do so many people watch them?

I think it’s the interaction. It’s fun to watch any content, but how often do you watch a television show or movie and find yourself Googling questions? With streaming, there’s no need for that. The streamer is right in front of you, engaging in real-time, ready to answer any question you have. 

That’s surely part of the appeal – a connection between the streamer and audience that you can’t get through a comment section, and it goes both ways – I actually know quite a lot about many of my viewers. I know their quirks, their favorite games; I know their sense of humor. Streaming connects people from across the globe, through common interests. I don’t see a point in time where this isn’t incredibly popular – not just with gambling, but in general.

Can you tell us how streamers earn money on streaming and the pros and cons for both companies and streamers? 

Once you start streaming and build an audience, there are numerous ways to make money. This can include merch, further businesses connected to the streaming name, or investment in similar companies – there are a lot of opportunities. Sticking to just streaming though, money is usually earned in two ways when streaming gambling content. 

First, through the platform, you stream with. So this can be Twitch subscribers, Twitch Partnership, YouTube memberships, YouTube Super Chats, or YouTube monetization – being paid for views from ads placed in your content. The amount you can expect to earn varies depending on how often you upload, how big your community is, and obviously, how many views you get. 

The second way is through affiliation, sponsorship, paid promotion, or anything similar. In short, you’re paid to promote certain casino(s), and you’re paid a fee for doing so. This ranges from being paid per sign up, to being paid depending on the value of your players, to the biggest names in streaming, where the trust is there that they will bring players in, so they’re paid a flat fee for the promotion. Again, there is no expected amount of earnings – it varies depending on a number of factors.

Can you tell us about streaming trends? What are the most popular games to stream?  What activities engage the audience more? 

The audience is always keen to see the latest games and brands on offer, but there is always a preference from viewers for more volatile games. I think this is understandable, as these games do have the biggest potential, but the long dead periods in play can make long sessions boring to watch. I like to mix it up between games that can pay big and games that are going to provide more regular action. 

A great opportunity to mix in some new games with modern classics is streamer Bonus Hunts, which we do regularly. These are common practices for Casino streamers, where we trigger the bonus on many games and then come back later to see the results. It really concentrates all the excitement to a specific point in the stream and the buildup and anticipation can really grow the audience.

There is an opinion that streaming helps people get rid of gambling addiction – like, watching a game can satisfy one’s cravings. What do you think about this?

I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but I choose to trust people who tell me this. I don’t see any reason someone would lie to me, and I think it’s important to recognize these are adults who have been mature enough to recognize they have a problem with their gambling, and have taken steps to rectify this. 

After all of that, I’m not going to tell them they shouldn’t watch my content – if it helps them, I’m happy for them to remain part of our community. I do know some people hold the view that someone with a gambling problem should not be watching any gambling content, but I don’t agree with this. Watching a gambling stream isn’t just about the gambling, it’s the connection, and sense of community – both things that can help mentally and emotionally. I try my best to not only promote responsible tools, but to also explain gambling to my viewers – what is RTP, how random are the games, does their choice matter, does a game owe them, etc. 

Through doing this I think people can then go on to make more responsible choices in the future, and I believe that is my role. I won’t dictate who can or cannot watch my content because some people find it strange – if it helps someone, I’m glad.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our Telegram-channel!