It may be cliché to say that when one door closes, another one opens. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a more apt description in this scenario.
After Amazon-owned streaming giant Twitch announced it was banning links to casino sites on streams, it seemed like a blow for an affiliate streaming market that was starting to gain some traction and popularity. But it could have presented an opportunity for other streaming platforms to get in on the action, ranging from big names like Youtube, Facebook and Steam to more specialist sites like CasinoGrounds.
One such platform is Time2play.com, which was quick to offer streamers a Twitch alternative.
Its chairman Tim Tepass is keenly aware of how streaming has become such a fertile ground for affiliates, believing that there’s much content to be made around casino products – be it written or oral reviews or streaming.
“For us, it’s an opportunity”
The vacuum left by Twitch’s ban is one that Time2play.com, which currently specialises in casino and product reviews, plans to take advantage of. “For us it’s an opportunity,” Tepass says.
“We have not been doing any streaming and we don’t really see ourselves as streamers.”
Tepass believes that this change in the landscape is the perfect time for streamers to take advantage of the large followings they’ve built up on Twitch and launch their own brands.
“I would encourage streamers to see that there’s a chance to create a loyal follower base, rather than trying to get underage viewers from existing traffic sources,” he adds.
“Right now they have a lot of momentum and traffic from within the ecosystem of twitch and this is how they grow their channel. I believe that they now have the chance to go and build their own brands and not just take advantage of the current environment.”
The smaller scale streamers are the ones more likely to be affected by these developments. Bigger streamers have the option of making deals with operators allowing them to just monitor the number of clicks they’re getting and attribute them to a marketing budget.
Smaller streamers won’t have such luxuries.
“This leaves them with two choices,” Tepass says.
“They could either go with the bigger streamer companies or they try to team up with companies like ours, stay independent and don’t have to follow what bigger corporations tell them to do. For the bigger ones it’s also an opportunity to team up with us but that takes a bit more convincing. There are some we’re having intense conversations with but it’s still early.”
The potential exposure of gambling content to minors was the final nail in the coffin of casino streamers on Twitch, and the affiliate link ban came as no surprise to Tepass – “Why would Jeff Bezos risk that?” he asks.
With the anticipation that other streaming services will follow Twitch’s lead, Tepass is confident that Time2play.com will stand out from the crowd because its igaming audience means it can focus only on adult viewers.
“In our case it’s for igaming and igaming only,” says Tepass.
“We’ll make sure that nobody underage will be able to watch the streamers – that itself is a huge difference. Underage people can’t just pop into a stream and get educated on how to gamble. It’s a silly system in the at the moment in my opinion.”
Though he says that it’s impossible to completely police who watches what on streaming services, Tepass believes that platforms – Time2play.com included – should be doing everything they can to mitigate the damages.
He says: “Right now when it comes to the UK for example its very similar to how you can access slots and demos where you have an age blocker in front, but at the end of the day where there’s a will there’s a way – that’s what the internet is all about.
“At least we know we aren’t targeting them, whereas Twitch clearly targets gamers around the world who are also primarily underage. If we aren’t careful enough it can just cause so much more harm than we could think of right now.”
Tepass adds that Time2play.com will also establish a code of conduct for its streamers in order to limit the amount of questionable content on streams. The aim is to be as firm as is necessary without limiting the creativity of potential streamers.
“We don’t want to be the police and want them to have total flexibility but there are certain things we believe don’t belong on a stream.”
Is innovation a threat?
The danger to minors isn’t just a cause for concern for the streaming platforms themselves.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm has been particularly vocal when it comes to slot streaming, believing it to be a “deeply concerning”, new form of gambling which should be included in the Gambling Act Review.
In a statement APPG chair Carolyn Harris MP and Peers for Gambling Reform chair Lord Foster of Bath said: “The review must establish mechanisms to research, review and, where relevant, re-classify these activities without primary legislation, to provide appropriate safeguards.
“Failing to include these new forms of gambling in the review will mean that legislation will very rapidly not be fit for the digital era and effectively be out of date on publication.”
“I think whenever there’s an innovation in the beginning it’s also seen as a threat,” Tepass responded.
“If we think back to the first live casinos, dealers were out so we had a similar momentum around that topic and now it’s totally mainstream and nobody sees it as harmful that there’s a live dealer dealing you blackjack cards.”
Tepass maintains that he’s all for regulation, provided it doesn’t completely diminish the experience for the user. As soon as regulators start to interfere too much, it can force people to turn to less than legal methods to enjoy their product.
Tepass adds: “We see this unfortunately in some countries like Germany where the regulators think they can control what the users want, while that is never the case as users are smart enough to find their way to whatever they want to do.
“And there’s a clear need for this as millions of users actually watch those streams over a long period – this isn’t a one hit wonder. It’s on the regulators to understand what’s happening and then put a good regulatory framework around it.”
“It doesn’t matter where they stream”
Moving forward, Time2play.com has a very clear audience it’s looking to target.
Tepas says: “We’re really focusing on igaming streamers, sports betting eventually and maybe poker, but its very much focused on the gambling image, rather than branching out into something like world of Warcraft for example. That’s not who we’re targeting.
“In terms of the regular gambling audience, I think this is quite beneficial. If you look at the product offering from Time2play.com holistically, it’s that you have the regular reviews, user reviews, playscore, and then at the same time you have the streamers talking about the products but independently from our opinions and the user opinions.
“The type of transparency hasn’t been abundant in our niche. If you look into another niches this is such a standard thing and we are the only ones in our industry that have been fully open and transparent with our users.”
Ultimately, whether its Time2play.com or another streaming platform, there’s confidence that – in the long run – the market won’t suffer significantly after the immediate shock of Twitch’s ban.
“If we look at the amount of streamers and the total views, it doesn’t matter where they stream,” Tepass says.
“They have huge followings who will follow along. Of course it will be harder to attract people from the existing ecosystem but we have other marketing channels if needed. I think it will fill the gap and I don’t think this will decrease things, it might even make monetisation fairer for everybody.”