Has Twitch Online Casino Got a Viewbotting Problem?October 25, 2018 12:54 pm
Twitch.tv is a popular medium that many online poker players have leveraged to showcase their skills (or lack thereof) to hundreds or thousands of entertained viewers. The same phenomenon has taken place with online casino enthusiasts too, but this community now faces the problem of viewbots artificially improving the metrics and fortunes of bogus gaming-related channels.
What Is a Viewbot?
Simply put, a viewbot is a fake account that exists merely to drive up viewer counts on Twitch channels. They don’t represent people actually watching a stream and are instead run by automated software. Because Twitch shows the channels with the most viewers at the top of their categories (in this case “Casino”), these inflated viewer counts mislead people looking for content into thinking that a given channel is very popular when, in fact, almost everyone watching is a bot.
What’s the Point of Viewbotting?
Most of the Twitch accounts that employ bots to boost their numbers feature affiliate ads on their channels. Whenever a user clicks on a banner and then signs up for an account, the channel owner gets a small payment. The hope is to entice some of the rare human viewers to click on these links and then make a real money account at a gambling site.
In order for this model to be profitable, it’s essential that costs are kept low. To this end, the people behind these shady channels don’t appear on camera and don’t show live casino gaming on their channels. Instead, they broadcast demo reels of automatic gameplay that don’t include any human interaction whatsoever.
In case a particular Twitch user is banned for engaging in these deceptive tactics, it’s trivial to just open up a new account. Because there has been no investment in user engagement or building up a legitimate following, the affiliate hasn’t really lost much, apart from a small amount of time and effort, whenever one of these channels is shut down.
How to Recognize a Viewbot Account
At first glance, it may seem difficult to identify which casino Twitch streamers are real and which are fake. However, there are a few telltale signs of a turnkey viewbotting operation.
First of all, most of these channels have very skewed viewer-to-follow ratios. For instance, there might be more than 1,000 people watching but only a single-digit number of followers.
Another sign of an ersatz casino gambling Twitch account is weird and unnatural chat. Although a certain amount of off-topic chatter is to be expected in any channel, the chat boxes of these spurious channels tend to be full of messages that bear no relation to the action being shown or indeed the topic of casino games at all. Furthermore, these chatbot messages are generally spaced out regularly with two or three seconds between them as opposed to real human chat text, which comes in at unpredictable intervals.
Kotaku.com, which wrote an article on this phenomenon, reported that one individual went to one of these fraudulent channels that had more than 10,000 viewers. This user requested that all viewers type a “1” in chat if they were not bots. Not a single person complied!
In the Kotaku.com article written by Nathan Grayson, the author draws attention to a number of these suddenly-popular Twitch channels, singling out Casinoblast, Dubrix_Casino, and John_Casinogame as prime examples of this phenomena. Nevertheless, Grayson explains that these are certainly not isolated incidences, and that over a week long period, seven of the fifty most popular channels on Twitch in terms of viewers are casino streamers that “pop up for a day, almost instantaneously amass thousands of highly suspect viewers, stream for a few hours, and advertise the heck out of gambling sites.”
The author then goes on to explain that these suspicious channels promote just a select handful of gambling sites, which subsequently benefit from free, mostly unregulated advertising before Twitch finally pulls the plug on them. That doesn’t stop them for long, though, and new channels spring up soon after as they repeat the process all over again.
Customer Protections Virtually Nonexistent
Anyone who actually clicks on an afflink advertised by a false Twitch.tv casino “streamer” may find themselves in the hands of a rogue operator. Unlike their legitimate brethren, who are usually willing to intercede with the gaming companies on behalf of their followers in the event of any issue, these fly-by-night channels have little incentive to help their viewers.
Honest casino affiliate streamers have put a lot of resources into growing their audiences and would be loathe to partner with disreputable online casino brands for fear of driving their followers away. No such considerations apply to channels using viewbots, which can pull the plug at any time without suffering any real consequences. These unscrupulous affiliates are also severely lacking in terms of protections for problem gamblers and underage users. While most trustworthy streamers age gate their content to those over 18 and include links to gambling addiction help sites, neither of these steps is typically taken by Twitch.tv channels that count on viewbot traffic.
Twitch.tv is aware of the threat posed by viewbots, and in February 2018 it won a $1.3 million judgment against the makers of a popular viewbot. Still, such enforcement actions are likely only feasible against the most notorious offenders. Those who keep a lower profile can likely slip under the radar of the company.
Casino streamers already have a host of restrictions that they must follow. For instance, Twitch doesn’t allow them to have a subscribe button on their channels, and users can supposedly stream real money gambling content for no more than 30 consecutive minutes although this time limit is a guideline that’s not listed in Twitch’s terms of service.
With viewbots eating into the earnings of rule-abiding casino streamers and Twitch itself appearing to merely tolerate gambling streams at best, the future of these channels is questionable. If viewbots ultimately make the gambling scene too burdensome for Twitch to effectively police, then online casino streaming on the platform may wind up being permanently eliminated altogether.