Taking advantage of the Twitch casino ban
There were many losers in the Twitch crackdown on online gambling streams, but there will be winners as well. Daniel O'Boyle chats with LiveSpins CEO Chris Scicluna and key investor Robin Reed on the performance of their gambling-specific streaming platform in the aftermath of the announcement.
As the gambling business has learned time and again, there are some who benefit from each new set of rules.
So when Twitch announced its latest crackdown on gambling streams, it appeared to be bad news for the business. Many, though, regarded the relocation as an opportunity.
The most obvious winners were competing streaming providers that specialised in gambling.
One of these is LiveSpins, which provides a streaming client incorporated into operator websites. Players may watch their favourite broadcasters play, but unlike on Twitch, which is not intended for gambling, they can also wager alongside them.
Livespins CEO Chris Scicluna stated that the company's original concept was inspired by Twitch.
“We are a live entertainment product,” he said. “We looked at Twitch and we saw streaming taking a lot of popularity. Just in 2021 there were 280 million hours of slots content consumed.
“There is a very strong community, but the followers cannot join in on the fun. So we saw a market gap. You can join in on the fun and watch them. You can chat, you can watch them but also you can bet.
“So when the streamer wins, everyone is winning.”
Unsurprisingly, the Twitch restriction appears to be opening up new economic options for LiveSpins.
Robin Reed, CEO of gaming VC fund Happyhour, a significant investor in LiveSpins, says that the company has already received greater attention.
“We had an incredibly strong pipeline and that pipeline has grown since this news,” he said. “Streamers have come to us, game providers have come to us and operators have come to us and taken a look at what we can do for them.
“On LiveSpins we’re seeing tier-one interest, both on the supply side and the operator side, and we’re now speaking with a handful of streamers.”
According to Scicluna, game studios are the most interested. It's simple to see why, given the potential to put games front and centre in the video.
“I think providers are more interested,” he said. “They were getting exposure via Twitch, but LiveSpins, via the operators might be more stable.”
Scicluna, on the other hand, denies that LiveSpins competes directly with Twitch. Instead, he stated that the two companies played distinct roles inside the gaming ecosystem, at various stages of the customer journey.
“We were never competing with Twitch, we were complementing Twitch,” he said. “Twitch was more for acquisition. While with LiveSpins, we were streaming in the lobby. We have the streamers, and then we work really hard so that the operators don’t need to.”
According to Scicluna, streaming has already had a significant impact on the online gaming industry.
“I think streamers have done an amazing job,” he says. “They’ve created a new level of entertainment on Twitch. Streamers started out with players just playing games, but they realised that to build a community they needed some real content creation with the limits they had.
“So some of them are doing bonus hunts. So they start playing, and when they get a bonus they park it, and then they’ll open all the bonuses together. They do bonus buys, they do tournaments of slots – 50 sins on each slots and the biggest win wins.
“They introduced a level of innovation that has been missing in the industry. But with anything there are downsides. Some streamers were not streaming in a sustainable and responsible way.”
Reed, on the other hand, believes that a crackdown was always likely.
“My first reaction was compassion for the businesses affected by this,” Reed says. “But we were not particularly surprised.
“Twitch had revised its policies on casino links and so on previously. Now, I think gambling in mainstream media – digital or not – will always be volatile. You’ll always be subject to policy. So we weren’t particularly surprised.”
In fact, he claims that the final result was less stringent than some might have expected. The announcement came after a lot of pressure from some of Twitch's most popular video game streamers to completely ban gambling streams.
“There were two pieces of news really,” he says. “One was that remote-licensed casinos would be banned. And they named a few of those. But they then did say you were allowed to stream locally licensed casinos. That was not necessarily given.
“They could have just banned playing casino games on their platform.”
Indeed, Reed stated that he could not be certain that things would not change further under the Amazon-owned platform.
“I think social media is going to get increasingly regulated, gambling is going to be increasingly regulated, so you’ll definitely see changes coming to those platforms,” he says. “But gambling is a cultural phenomenon that’s been around for all of mankind and is there to stay.
“I definitely think that gambling will always have a presence on those platforms but I expect much more regulation in the future around it.
Scicluna is delighted to give Twitch credit for growing enormous audiences, but admits that it is too genre-agnostic to be the preferred platform for gambling streamers.
“I think Twitch in itself is a streaming platform and built a huge community around video gaming, but it wasn’t really designed for gambling. It’s an agnostic platform which was great for building a large community, but those within a sector know more about how to do so in a more sustainable way.”
Finally, Reed feels that certain solutions can only be found within the industry.
“I hope these latest events shows that it’s much better that the industry comes together and develops great community offerings rather than relying on industries from outside of the industry to cater to them.”
By fLEXI tEAM