Crypto casinos have snowballed in recent years, becoming among the hottest new gambling trends. Marketed on the promise of greater anonymity, security and faster payments facilitated through blockchain technology, they offer a natural pull factor for players and have been popularised by influencers and celebrities on streaming platforms like Twitch and Kick.com.
Crypto casinos are not licensed by the Gambling Commission of Great Britain, making them offshore and unregulated, so there’s a divide between players’ safety in a regulatory sense and blockchain technology’s perceived safety benefits.
The crypto casino boom
Due to the more illicit nature of crypto casinos, it is difficult to source reliable data on the market size. However, the crypto gambling market has been valued at approximately $250 million in 2021, with over 500 English-language crypto casinos in operation.
Data from SOFTSWISS comparing crypto betting from Q1 of 2021 with Q1 of 2022 shows how fast this market is growing: “crypto gamblers placed nearly three billion (2,925,599,422) crypto bets in the first quarter of 2021. A year later, the number of crypto bets increased by 116% to more than six billion (6,342,214,971)”. The same report also adds that in Q1 2022, around 35.96% of all bets were made using crypto.
Cryptocurrency and its benefits have been mass-popularised in the media and pop culture, but when it comes down to crypto casino advertising, one of the most significant avenues for these sites has been live streaming.
Live-streaming gambling products have been steadily gaining popularity. Twitch, one of the most popular platforms, launched in 2011; within the first year, it accumulated 3.2 million monthly users. In 2023, Twitch had over 140 million active monthly users.
The popularity of slots on Twitch has been increasing since 2019 but took off in 2021 (coinciding with the increased activity of two major streamers, xQc and Trainwreckstv, alongside celebrities like Drake). In 2022, slots featured multiple times in the top 10 most-watch categories for the first time.
Gambling content remains highly popular on the platform despite several investigative articles published in the media, highlighting cheating scandals, the promotion of offshore gambling sites and serious concerns for player/viewer safety.
The big cheat
According to evidence gathered by Sky News, the top live streamers often play with accounts funded by gambling sites and earn money from the promotions. Unlike when a real consumer gambles, the wins and losses are not real, so neither is the risk. This allows them to lay huge bets without worrying about the consequences, play for multiple hours per day and promote this behaviour as conducive to winning large sums, which is compelling for audiences of all ages, but especially younger viewers.
One of the most well-known occurrences saw the celebrity Drake win nearly £11 million on a single live roulette spin at Stake.com. Many of these streams include promo codes that promote crypto casinos and even tell players how to evade geo-location restrictions through VPNs.
Using celebs for live streaming adds a social element to gambling and glamorises it, portraying it as an easy way to make money. Drake is not the only celebrity influencer used by crypto sites, in particular, Stake.com. A spokesperson from the charity Gambling with Lives has called this practice “deeply immoral” as it is “designed to attract a young audience who are particularly vulnerable to being drawn into addiction by the gambling industry”.
Lack of age-gating
One of the significant concerns has been regarding the lack of age-gating on Twitch. You only need to be 13 years old to sign up to Twitch, and most of the site’s users are under 24. More than 65% of streamers are male. Research from the Gambling Commission has shown that younger men are more predisposed to gambling addiction.
The crypto casino streams depict the type of gambling behaviours all legal jurisdictions warn against and cite as indicative of problem gambling: long sessions, high spending, and chasing losses. As such, they essentially promote, legitimise, and further incentivise addiction and harmful habits (one of the most famous slot streamers, xQc, took ‘a break’ from streaming in 2022, admitting he was dealing with gambling addiction).
Streaming irresponsible betting behaviours from famous role models and encouraging players to use offshore casinos is perilous because offshore casinos tend to have lower levels of player protection and responsible gambling support.
Most crypto casinos are either unlicensed or licensed in Curacao, which is considered a “rubber stamp” jurisdiction by many (although it is being reformed) and has the weakest rules for player protection of any other gambling commission. On the other hand, unlicensed gambling sites have no legal commitment to player safety, payouts or fair gaming; in most cases, they are looking to defraud players of money.
Traditional casinos: A better bet
Traditional regulated online casinos offer a safer experience for young people looking to explore online gambling responsibly. Using reputable review sites, such as SlotGods.co.uk, is a sensible and secure way to find the best UK-licensed casino sites, according to each player’s criteria, like fast cashouts.
The popularity of crypto casinos hinges on payment innovation, giving traditional casinos renewed motivation to improve payments via formally recognised methods. Many Fiat online casinos now offer fee-free transactions, instant or same-day cashouts and lower deposit and withdrawal limits than before, meaning they’ve become more competitive on similar terms as crypto sites. Still, unlike the former, they are legally responsible for protecting players and encouraging responsible gambling.
The convergence of crypto, live streamers and online gambling is the perfect set of conditions for undoing the last ten years of responsible gambling education and awareness. In the case of the UK, the government’s 2023 White Paper affords the Gambling Commission with greater powers that could extend to blocking illegal gambling sites. This measure will undoubtedly help protect UK players, but crypto casinos will continue to gain a global audience.
Since the issues with gambling streams on Twitch were first published, the platform has taken steps, including banning streams from gambling sites that are not licensed in the US or by another robust jurisdiction. However, other platforms have popped up to service the demand, like Kick.com, which opened in 2022 and has seen many crypto casinos and slot streamers migrate from Twitch.
Responsible gambling is essential for players who continue to seek out crypto casinos. Players must educate themselves to bet responsibly and use bet limits while being realistic about the risks of gambling with crypto, its inert instability and the nature of unregulated gambling sites.