Norway Joins Germany In Questioning Twitch Gambling Streams

October 25, 2022
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Norway is just as annoyed as Germany at a Twitch move to ban only some streamed online casino games from its platform, saying streamers of unlicensed slots are breaking the law, and other European countries could soon follow their lead.

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Norway is just as annoyed as Germany at a Twitch move to ban only some streamed online casino games from its platform, saying streamers of unlicensed slots are breaking the law, and other European countries could soon follow their lead.

Last week, Germany’s Joint Gaming Authority for the Federal States (GGL) told Twitch that any advertising of unlicensed gambling in Germany is illegal, including those licensed by US or other European authorities.

A Norwegian official said the gambling regulator has written to Twitch protesting what it sees as “illegal marketing of gambling without a licence in Norway”, adding that the issue could also be a matter for Norwegian media regulators.

“Our view is that all marketing of gambling without licence in Norway, that takes place in Norway and/or is directed at Norway in any way or form, falls within the scope of the prohibition,” said senior legal advisor Rannveig Gram Skår.

“The prohibition against marketing of gambling includes all types of offering of gambling which is not licensed in Norway, although it might be licensed in other countries,” she told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Norway had been pursuing daily fines against Kindred Group despite the Stockholm-listed company’s claims that it does not solicit Norwegian players and only accepts them passively. Enforcement is on hold while the parties talk.

Following criticism Twitch did not bar underage viewers, and that streamers often did not disclose they were playing with house money, the gaming streaming site last year banned sharing links.

Then it said it was restricting, but not banning, streaming of slots, roulette and dice games to websites licensed in the US or jurisdictions that “offer sufficient consumer protection”.

The restrictions announced by the Amazon-owned company specifically targeted a handful of cryptocurrency gambling sites and took effect on October 18.

But Norway and Germany are pushing back against the partial ban, and others may follow.

A spokeswoman for the GGL said third-party broadcasts of even licensed gambling is not allowed under German law.

“The streaming of both legal and illegal gambling offers of any form of gambling is prohibited,” she told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

A spokesman for the Netherlands Gambling Authority noted that Dutch law prohibits promotion of unlicensed gambling, although he said he could not comment on “any ongoing investigations”.

The Swedish Gambling Authority noted that anyone who promotes unlicensed gambling can be sentenced to as much as two years in prison.

But to be prosecuted, the promoter must be seen to be targeting Swedes, with criteria including Swedish-language websites, deposits and withdrawals in Swedish currency or Swedish-language customer service, said Marcus Aronsson, an investigator with the regulator.

That would appear to put most Twitch streamers in the clear.

But the Swedish government has proposed a ban on advertising unlicensed gambling on foreign broadcasts and video-sharing sites, which, if enacted, would give the regulator tools to address the issue, Aronsson said.

Spain, Belgium and Italy also have laws that heavily restrict gambling advertising of most kinds, let alone those not licensed by their gambling regulators.

Matt Zarb-Cousin of the UK-based Clean Up Gambling said social media platforms should ensure gambling is not accessible to under-18s, wherever any site is licensed.

“At the very least there should be full transparency over affiliate relationships with streamers, including high-profile brand ambassadors like Drake,” he said, citing the Canadian rapper who has streamed his gambling habits on Twitch.

Drake has prominently made huge wagers on slots representing Stake.com, which sponsors Watford and Everton football clubs. It was among cryptocurrency gambling websites explicitly banned by Twitch.

“Fundamentally, given the affiliate relationships in place, this is a form of advertising,” said Zarb-Cousin. “Despite its accessibility and appeal to children, much like viral content based marketing, the [UK] Advertising Standards Authority has failed to take sufficient action against operators engaging in it via their affiliates.”

The Norwegian Gambling Authority has also reported what it believes to be illegal marketing of gambling to Facebook, YouTube, Tinder and Instagram, Gram Skår said.

The authority usually refers the social media sites to their own policies, and “to a large extent”, they have removed the offending material upon request, she said.

San Francisco-based Twitch did not respond to requests for comment in time for deadline.

One streamer, Tyler “Trainwreck” NIknam, claimed he was paid $360m over 16 months to stream at Stake.com, although he said his actual gambling habit has cost him more than he has won.

Slots streaming continues on Twitch, albeit in reduced numbers and in different forms. Sports betting, daily fantasy sports and poker are also not affected by the ban.

On Monday (October 24), Adspro24 was streaming slots in Spanish, supposedly aimed at Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador but visible in the UK.

Bonusheroes was broadcasting slots spins in German and links led to an affiliate site through which a web browser could click on links and collect bonuses for play. Some websites were accessible in the UK, some were not.

Bigchungytv2 said its slots streams were “fundraising for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital”, a Memphis, Tennessee paediatric research centre. But it promised “we won’t be here for long”, as it was “moving to DLive”.

A streaming service, DLive, is trying to poach slots business, with some streamers pitching viewers on Twitch itself with ads saying “TYPE !DLIVE TO WATCH US”.

DLive, a cryptocurrency-focused service owned by BitTorrent, was named by the New York Times as a site where January 6 election protesters streamed themselves as they stormed the US Capitol.

DLive later claimed it had “zero tolerance” for violence, saying it was freezing the earnings of anyone who broke into the Capitol building.

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