Are We Living In The Golden Age Of Casino Content Creation?

Written By Derek Helling on December 8, 2023
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While some legacy forces impacting the economy in the United States are still struggling to wrap their eyes and scrolling fingers around it, a few have become first-movers in terms of monetizing online content about gambling successfully. Marketing knowledge and technical ability certainly play huge roles in the success of such enterprises but timing is also a factor.

As has traditionally been the case when it comes to emergent industries in US history, lawmakers and regulators are in a reactionary position. Issues that might currently fly under the radar are bound to eventually produce some blips on that scanning, though.

Concerns over issues like taxation and the impact of such content in terms of responsible gambling could someday make streaming live slot play or sharing posts about sports betting on social media just as heavily regulated as the gambling industry in the US. For now, though, it’s the wild version of the West that only exists in fictional narratives.

Gambling content isn’t hard to find

If you want to watch someone play online slots or table games on your phone, that’s no problem. A search for live slots on YouTube produces thousands of results of exactly what that term suggests. That includes some live streams. One of the most successful content creators in this niche, Brian Christopher, has hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

YouTube isn’t the only destination for people seeking such content, either. Similar content is also available on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitch. It’s a niche of the greater “creator economy” that Drew Harwell and Taylor Lorenz of the Washington Post recently reported on.

As Harwell and Lorenz report, the creator economy boasts a current value of $250 billion. Millions of people work in the industry reaching hundreds of millions of consumers. The creator economy even has a dedicated trade association.

In fact, Harwell and Lorenz state that content on YouTube alone was sufficient to support four times as many full-time jobs as General Motors provided in 2022. Yet recording yourself hitting a button on a slot machine is not an easy and instant path to riches.

There is a massive disparity between the wheat of content creators in the gambling niche and the chaff. Furthermore, it’s difficult to quantify what separates those two.

The playbook for success is abstract

When it comes to lucrative content on platforms like TikTok, the best explanation is similar to differentiating art from pornography; you know it when you see it. Put another way, if there was a hard and fast formula, it would be easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

The reality is that novice eyes looking at a video with hundreds of thousands of views and another with a handful of views might struggle to discern what made the former take off while audiences ignored the latter. The simplest explanation is that successful creators have figured out their own strategies and aren’t sharing.

It’s those intangible qualities that contribute to the abstract nature of this industry in another way; regulation. Governments are still uncertain of how exactly to fit the creator economy into existing boxes or create a new box for the industry.

The regulatory landscape of gambling content

There is regulation of content promoting gambling in states with regulated landscapes for gaming. The rules around advertising apply to Internet mediums like social media. However, much of the gambling content in the creator space boasts shades of grey.

Furthermore, Harwell and Lorenz report that the Internal Revenue Service struggles to define this kind of work. For certain, income from content creation is taxable. At the same time, a lack of clear standards muddles exactly what business expenses content creators can deduct from their revenue.

Many creators post disclaimers to their content featuring statements sharing that their intent in their content is not to promote gambling. Rather, they are simply sharing their life experiences, including their gambling activity.

While regulators could still have their say on that, for now, it seems sufficient to evade prying eyes. Lawmakers might also be reluctant to dive in because they don’t want to take on the burden of discerning what is and isn’t promotional content. Additionally, the work of sifting through millions of posts is understandably less than desirable.

For the most part, government agencies are content to leave that task to the platform providers themselves. That might already be problematic in terms of promoting responsible gambling, though.

Is the flow of content a responsible gambling concern?

Again, many creators feature disclaimers in the descriptions of their content. Among the messages are that the content is intended for people of certain ages and information on how to access resources for those who struggle with compulsive gambling behaviors.

Platforms have their own rules toward that end. Twitch, for example, requires content creators to add labels to their streams when they contain live participation in gambling. Such notices may not go far enough to actually achieve goals like preventing younger audiences from accessing the content.

Additionally, for people of appropriate ages who struggle with compulsive gambling behaviors, the content may act as a trigger.

“When we consider what might trigger vulnerable populations, various forms of media come to mind including TV, radio, print, and increasingly social media,” said Dr. Michael Auer, founder of Neccton, an OpenBet company. “Each individual’s triggers may vary and also don’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, they are part of the whole experience including a person’s physical and mental health, other stressors in their lives, their current finances and more. Overall, we want to encourage responsible play for everyone and ensure that players who are experiencing gambling harm are able to find the resources they need quickly and effectively.”

Another issue that comes into play in terms of government regulation of content of this type is net neutrality. The Biden Administration has made it a priority to protect that principle of avoiding censorship of content on the Internet. Government agencies’ attempts to regulate content of this kind could run afoul of that stance.

However, that only applies to the federal government. State regulators might be more active on the issue in the future. That day does not seem imminent right now, though.

Regulators’ attention centers elsewhere right now

At this time, monitoring creator content on the Internet is a task that gambling regulators across the US are not overly concerned with. Furthermore, speculation is a dangerous proposition for them as they are law enforcement agencies.

A statement from the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) addresses the situation to the extent currently possible.

“Every instance of filming or potential filming inside a casino presents a unique set of facts and circumstances that preclude broad statements or characterizations,” the statement reads. “IGB staff and each of Illinois’ 15 licensed casino operators work cooperatively to address any such instances within the parameters of the casino’s policies and applicable Illinois statutes and IGB rules.”

While it seems that the path to actually making a living creating online casino content is fraught with difficulties, now might be the best opportunity to do so. The unregulated status of such content has its points of detraction. At the same time, that’s part of the appeal.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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