Gambling addiction led to scamming viewers
A scandal involving a popular Twitch streamer has is proving to be a catalyst for other streamers to urge the entertainment platform to ban gambling streams. Confirmed in a Discord call with top streamers Hasan Piker, Matthew “Mizkif” Rinaudo, and Félix “xQc” Lengyel, Abraham Jehad “Sliker” Mohammed admitted to scamming his fellow streamers and viewers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The root cause of his actions: gambling addiction.
Sliker said that he got into gambling five years ago on sites that provided the ability for people to gamble their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in-game skins. He eventually found out he could use real money to gamble and from there, he was unable to stop for more than short periods of time.
As often happens to people with gambling addiction, Sliker borrowed money from friends and family, hoping to hit a big score and pay people back. Then he got into streaming and things got worse.
“I don’t need to explain how big of a thing it is. It’s made me an ill person. It’s made me into an evil person,” he said in an apology stream. “Basically the outcome is, you lose everything in life if you do this. It becomes worse and worse and worse and worse unless you get the help that you need.”
During the past year, Sliker secretly borrowed money from other streamers, some of which he knew, some of which he didn’t. He was careful to word his requests in such a way so as to appear urgent and hopefully keep the streamers from telling each other about him.
All told, it is estimated that Sliker pulled about $300,000 from around 100 different people, including $150,000 from Tyler “Trainwreck” Niknam, one of the most prolific gambling streamers on Twitch.
Ludwig Ahgren, another top streamer, detailed what happened in a YouTube video, admitting that he got scammed out of about $1,000. For some reason, Ahgren is prone to getting scammed, as he recently admitted he was taken for tens of thousands of dollars by a man in Las Vegas.
xQc, who rose to prominence as an Overwatch streamer, but now does a lot of gambling streaming, promised to pitch in and reimburse half the losses of those who fell for Sliker’s ruse.
Twitch taking heat
This saga seems like it could be a tipping point in the battle many streamers and viewers have against gambling on Twitch. “Slots” is now among the top ten most popular categories on the platform, a site for which children make up a sizeable portion of its traffic, as it is historically been geared mostly toward video game streaming.
Though poker streams have been common on Twitch for years (as I write this, the poker category ranks 25th), slots streams have only recently caught fire. Much of this is because of sponsored streams and it is this type of stream that is even more in the crosshairs than gambling streams, in general. Some of the biggest gambling streamers bet, win, and lose more money in a session than most of us make in a year, and much of that money is provided by a sponsor.
The criticism should be obvious: streamers make gambling look fun and freely wager tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a session, all while easily-influenced children look on. Trainwrecks has warned viewers that they shouldn’t gamble, but nevertheless, he still does it and makes loads of money from his stream, even when he loses at the virtual casino.
Now, popular streamers such as Mizkif and Imane “Pokimane” Anys (who herself has spoken out against gambling streams on Twitch for a while now) are threatening to stop streaming – thus losing Twitch site visits – if the platform doesn’t get rid of gambling streams and sponsored ones, in particular.
Whether or not they actually ended up going on “strike” remains to be seen, but the pressure on Twitch is growing, so expect something to happen, good, bad, or indifferent, eventually.