To get an insider perspective on the category as a whole, and ask about some of these issues, I contacted several casino streamers with some questions on the topic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most were reluctant to speak to me for this article. Thankfully, one of the three brothers who runs popular channel CasinoDaddy, Mathias Joelsson, agreed to talk to me.
Joelsson explained part of the reason for the casino category's growth may well be due to "view bot streams" artificially inflating the numbers. According to Joelsson, streamers use these in order to gain human viewers "because people go to the section and go to the one with the most viewers".
This would certainly explain the huge numbers watching the streams. It also correlates with observations made in a recent report by Kotaku on the subject. As observed by writer Nathan Grayson, many of the streams show tell-tale signs of chat bots, while many casino streaming channels amass thousands of viewers in a single day - before mysteriously being banned. I myself saw one channel disappear and reappear three times in this way. It makes sense, as channels hoping to advertise casinos can push themselves to the top of the category, and if they do get banned by Twitch, they can simply create another channel and do it again. If enough people do this, the whole casino category ends up being visible on the Twitch featured games list.
Yet Joelsson told me of a number of other problems. He claimed some casino channels steal content from other streamers' broadcasts, which they then re-stream on their own channels. More worryingly, Joelsson says many streamers use play funds "so they can sit and attract viewers with higher bets". By play funds, Joelsson means money given to the streamers by casinos that can't be withdrawn from the site, but can be used to play the games on stream. "It's kind of a scam," Joelsson added. "They make the viewers believe it is real, and we had a lot of offers from many casinos with offers for us to play with play funds."
Joelsson was eager to emphasise, however, that CasinoDaddy does not accept these offers, and the channel tries to remain transparent by displaying their deposits and withdrawals.
As Joelsson insisted CasinoDaddy uses real money, I was curious to find out how the financial aspect of gambling streaming works. In other words, how can they afford it? The answer, according to what Joelsson said, is special deposit bonuses from the casinos.
"The casinos want us to play on their sites, so they offer us good deposit bonuses," Joelsson explained. "On every deposit, we get a deposit bonus, and it varies from 100 per cent up to maybe 200 per cent bonus. So if you deposit 300, we get either 300 or 600 in bonus. Otherwise we couldn't really do it, we'd have to have a much lower stake per spin if we didn't have the bonuses."
In addition to this, CasinoDaddy accepts affiliate deals from a number of "legit" casinos, which pay the channel based on the number of people who take the joining deals advertised on their channel. "We do some research before we take them on, then it differs from brand to brand whether you get paid by normal revenue share, or a hybrid deal: which means you get a fixed fee and then a percentage," Joelsson told me. "We try to mostly take the fixed fees, because we want to get happy when the viewers win, otherwise it's only based on the player's losses if you have a normal revenue share."
Enough people seem to be watching CasinoDaddy for the channel to have become a part-time job for the brothers, who run an IT company alongside streaming. "Now the IT is more like a side business," Joelsson mused.