$300,000 Streamer Scam Prompts Twitch to Crack Down on Gambling

·10 min read
crypto-casino - Credit: Kraevski/Getty Images
crypto-casino - Credit: Kraevski/Getty Images

A tearful confession from a popular Twitch streamer, who admitted to conning friends and followers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay his gambling expenses, prompted calls for the site to crack down on users broadcasting live bets in online casinos. On Tuesday, the company responded to users, announcing a new prohibition on streaming any gambling site that features slots or roulette.

The ban is slated to take effect on October 18.

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Abraham Mohammed, known as ItsSliker on Twitch, where he has more than 400,000 subscribers — or “Sliker” for short — took to his channel this weekend to respond to a spate of recent accusations that he had bilked other streamers of money with stories of frozen bank accounts and similar woes. In the video, the British streamer explained that he got into gambling through Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a video game whose professional esport community made it possible to wager on matches with rare and valuable in-game items, and eventually to bet these goods elsewhere. Soon, Sliker said, he was burning through all his Twitch money in virtual casinos and asking other users for loans, always promising to repay them while never revealing his addiction or insurmountable debt.

“I am not a victim,” he emphasized, adding: “My intentions were never to scam anyone.”

Sliker’s preferred venues for this gambling are unclear, and he did not reply to a request for comment. But his public embarrassment over this activity has renewed scrutiny of gambling platforms such as Stake.com, which offer sports betting and digital versions of casino games through offshore companies. Players use bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on these sites rather than traditional money, helping the casinos avoid regulatory oversight, and identity screening is minimal. As these businesses have taken off, their offerings are increasingly featured on Twitch streams alongside League of Legends and Minecraft. Currently, “Slots” are the tenth most-watched game on the site, right below Fortnite.

Yanny, a 23-year-old in Norway, told Rolling Stone in a private message that they were Sliker’s first Twitch friend after the pair connected back in 2017. They also have receipts showing they’ve sent him the equivalent of more than $4,000 since February 2021. Sliker has yet to pay it back.

“In voice chat and text chat he’d be very manipulative. He’d act like he’s in a rush, say everything is urgent and he tried being a little personal with me,” Yanny explained. “Saying stuff like ‘I’d really appreciate if you helped me out,’ ‘I don’t know what to do,’ ‘It’s ok if you can’t help me out, I totally get that I’m requesting a lot,’ “You know you mean a lot to me,’ ‘I feel like taking my own life,’ and the list goes on.” (A redditor has compiled screenshots of similar instances where Sliker asked for money from viewers in his Discord, and Sliker himself admitted himself in a stream to taking money from a woman receiving chemotherapy.)

Yanny says they were “disappointed” and “distraught” to learn of Sliker’s behavior and addiction but have taken a forgiving attitude. “I personally did not mind losing any of the money that was sent to him,” they wrote, noting that wouldn’t send him anything “that I could not afford giving away.” What truly shook them “was the amount of victims affected by his addiction.” Ultimately, they said, “I just wish him well and I hope he can get through rehab.”

The scandal has erupted at a moment when Amazon-owned Twitch is weighing the potential downside of its gambling boom. Streamers including Trainwreck (Tyler Faraz Niknam) and xQc (Felix Lengyel) have obtained massive sponsorship deals with Stake.com to stream their high-rolling action there. The rapper Drake is also a partner in the site. But Bloomberg reported last month that with Twitch developing an audience for streamers risking massive sums of crypto on blackjack and roulette, some viewers have been drawn into the casinos themselves — only to lose their life savings. A Twitch representative told Bloomberg that the company has moved “to address scams and other harms associated with questionable gaming sites” and is presently taking “a deep-dive look into gambling behavior” across their platform. (Twitch did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone.)

In the wake of Sliker’s apparent long-term fraud, Twitch streamers Pokimane (Imane Anys) and Mizkif (Matthew Rinaudo) have tweeted calls for Twitch to ban gambling altogether. Under the trending hashtag #TwitchStopGambling, you can now find countless stories of financial and mental hardship that people endured after being introduced to online gambling through the site — and many claim they were underage when they first got hooked.

Meanwhile, xQc and another prominent streamer, Ludwig Ahgren, have promised to refund all of Sliker’s victims, to the tune of $300,000. In direct messages, Yanny said this was “not to help and bail out Sliker, but to help the people that truly suffered from this situation.” Though as a prominent Twitch gambler, xQc may have another motive for trying to settle the uproar: it’s a direct threat to his current streaming business. (He did not respond to a request for comment.) While Ahgren tweeted that it was time for Twitch to take action on gambling content, xQc retweeted a more defensive post from fellow gambling streamer Trainwreck, who criticized “predatory” practices while characterizing Sliker as a “sports betting addict” rather than a virtual slots or roulette fanatic.

Haris, an English 21-year-old living in Portugal, explained to Rolling Stone via private messages how he had chatted with Sliker on Discord for two years before the streamer asked to borrow £3,000 — which he did pay back, gaining Haris’ trust in the process. Over the next year, as he recently shared on Twitter, Haris sent Sliker another £30,000 for reasons that ranged from “paying off tax he owed (with doctored proof) to needing to take his ill dad on holiday which he couldn’t afford at the time due to his paypal being locked,” he said.

Haris added that Sliker had no shortage of excuses when it came to not repaying these loans, using evidence of his Twitch income and sponsorships to make his creditors believe they had “nothing to worry about.” The whole time, Haris thought Sliker only owed money to him and three other individuals. He also remembers Sliker being threatened by people he’d borrowed from in person, who “punctured his car tire,” Sliker then using this incident to beg Haris and “probably a dozen other people” for a loan to pay the guy off. “His common tactic,” Haris said, was to send the same message to “several people at the same time to garner more money than he actually needed just so he could gamble with the extra amount, then he would lose again and keep this cycle going — borrow to pay someone else he borrowed money from.”

“I know a lot of people will call victims like me stupid, naive, gullible,” Haris continued, but reiterated how insistent and methodical Sliker was with his demands. Besides, he said, “when you have the money that you can send without worrying to help a friend out, I feel like a lot of people would have done the same.” He assumed, too, that Sliker would never risk his valuable Twitch celebrity or profits by deceiving so many in the community. Even as Haris and fellow streamers grew wise to the hustle, they were hesitant to expose Sliker, “as we had no idea what kind of scheme he was running and we genuinely thought he was in a bad position for other reasons.”

Haris, who alleged that Sliker was eventually betting as much as £2,000 per day on sports after he started gambling with Counter-Strike items in 2016, sees Twitch gambling as an epidemic.

“Everyone knows how brutal gambling addiction is in general, but when you have this unique era of the internet where live content is taking over, gambling has found a new form of capturing and consuming its victims,” he said. “Twitch is allowing money-hungry streamers to selfishly advertise sites like Stake, where they gamble copious amounts of money and actually win in the millions sometimes. The consequence of this is brutal.”

As if to prove the point about wealthy streamers setting unrealistic expectations for casino gambling, amid all this controversy, xQc claimed to have won $1.5 million on a slots spin with money left over after he’d repaid the chemo patient Sliker had allegedly defrauded.

Sliker, for his part, went live on Twitch again Monday to announce that xQc and Ahgren were assuming his debts. He apologized once again and vowed to go to rehab to “overcome” his addiction, saying that he didn’t know if he’d return to the platform but would continue to reach out to those who had lent him money or moral support on Discord.

The day before, Irish streamer JustaMinx — who has 2 million followers and the phrase “gambling is bad” appended to her username — argued that Sliker’s well-known acquaintances were simply “coddling him” by protecting him from any fallout.

“Sliker has scammed so many people. And because he has friends that can pay it off, it’s fine,” she said. “He’ll do it again, then. Like, how is that helping him?”

Sept. 20, 6:50 p.m.: This story has been updated to include a public response from Twitch.

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