Twitch bans 'promotion or sponsorship' of CS:GO skin gambling

A Counter-Strike chicken with guns.
(Image credit: Valve)

Late last year Twitch began to take the issue of gambling streams on its platform seriously, issuing new guidelines that prohibited such content and triggering an exodus of content creators that gambled on-stream. This saw major figures such as xQc, a hugely popular Canadian streamer who often gambles big money and admits he has a problem, move over to Twitch rival Kick, which allows gambling (though the $100 million definitely helped).

Twitch has now begun to get more laser-focused on these guidelines, and has issued a new edict that prohibits streamers from either promoting or being sponsored by Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) skin gambling sites. Estimating the size of this grey industry is a near-impossible task, but it's fair to say it is enormous, enormously popular, and has been a part of the CS:GO scene pretty much since Valve added skins (heck, I've gambled CS:GO skins in the past via sites that let you bet on tournament results). There are professional CS:GO players and teams sponsored by these outfits (such as G2 esports). 

Even if no-one knows exactly how big it is, the size of CS:GO skin gambling has made it an especial focus for those who believe gambling should have no place on Twitch. There is also the age factor: Because Twitch audiences skew young there is an argument that skin gambling content is effectively being advertised to minors.

There are many types of skin-related streams, because CS:GO players are just very interested in skins generally. These rules will apparently not affect the standard format whereby streamers buy a whole bunch of keys and stream themselves opening crates: some draw an equivalence between CS:GO crates and gambling, due to the roulette-like spinner that reveals what you've unboxed, but there's a clear difference between opening a loot box in-game and getting a skin versus betting those skins through a third party website.

The new wording from Twitch specifically highlights CS:GO skins gambling, and says "promotion or sponsorship of skins gambling is prohibited under our policy" from now on. The wording does leave questions about what, exactly, may be allowed. If a CS:GO streamer goes to gamble a few skins on a site, without having any kind of sponsorship or affiliation with that site, is that prohibited? There's also the matter of what this will mean for those CS:GO streamers that do have some sort of tie-up with one of these sites that, until this new clarification, was perfectly within the rules on Twitch. It seems a pretty stark choice between getting out of the deal or moving to Kick.

"Quick clarification about what today's update means," said a Twitch spokesperson via email. "We added to our list of prohibited gambling sites (now 6 sites total), and flagged that the promotion and sponsorship of CSGO skins, specifically, are not allowed on our service. We've observed renewed interest in CSGO skins, so we wanted to make our position clear."

The latter can probably be put down to Valve's recent announcement of Counter-Strike 2, and more specifically the megaton news that all CS:GO skins would carry over to the new game. This has led to a spike in the skins market and some silly money exchanging hands over rather garish weapons, so it's little surprise that Twitch seems to have noticed an uptick in gambling related skins content. One of the most popular CS:GO streamers, ohnePixel, seems inextricable from his various hijinks with skins: I've asked him for comment on the changes and will update with any response.

Twitch's new policy has resulted in a 75% decrease in gambling content viewership across the site. This announcement has obviously made a bit of a splash in the CS:GO community, but the proof will really be in the pudding: by targeting specific sites, and prohibiting "promotion or sponsorship" but not necessarily the act itself, Twitch has left wiggle-room for enforcement or otherwise. These new rules could potentially have a major impact: or it could all blow over with not much changing.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."