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YouTube Surprise Bans Numerous Gambling-Related Channels

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Around the end of May and the first week of June, YouTube started banning channels that feature gambling content with no advance warning given. All their content was blocked, and in some cases, live streams were halted and cancelled even as they were being broadcast.

YouTube Message: Channel TerminatedThe Message Shown to YouTube Users Who Attempt to Access Banned Content

More Details on the Suspensions

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Affected users have reported that the explanations given by YouTube for blocking their accounts were very vague and uninformative. One content creator whose channel was closed shared an email that he received from the company. It reads in part:

YouTube doesn't allow content that encourages or promotes violent or dangerous acts that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death. For example, it's not okay to post videos showing drug abuse, underage drinking and smoking, or bomb making.

How this relates to gambling is unclear. It's almost impossible to conceive of a situation where betting on chance-based games could cause “serious physical harm or death.” There's nothing prohibiting videos showing real money wagering in the YouTube code of conduct.

Some have speculated that the account closures were not triggered by gambling-related content specifically. YouTube policies frown upon vids whose purpose is to drive traffic to outside sites, which opens up the possibility that it's affiliate links to online casinos that caused the trouble. Also, people who wish to link to their own websites in video descriptions must go through a process to verify the URL of the sites they control, and failing to do so may be grounds for blocking a channel.

All of these hypotheses sound plausible. It's nearly impossible to really get solid info on the real rationale for YouTube's actions, though, especially because the company is pretty tight-lipped when it comes to explaining reasons for account closure.

One of the channels that was banned was “TheBigJackpot,” which contains footage of high-stakes, live slot machine play and has more than 120,000 subscriptions. “Brian Christopher” is a similar channel with more than 80,000 subscribers. It's thus not obscure and little-known video makers who are seeing their materials rendered inaccessible but rather prominent, popular content creators.

Frame From a Brian Christopher Video Showing a Big WinStlil Image From a Video of Slot Machine Play on Brian Christopher's YouTube Channel
He Collected $372 From Free Spins Off a $3.52 Bet on the “Stampede Power” Slot

YouTube Partially Reverses Itself

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After Wall Street Journal writer Christopher Mims informed his Twitter followers of what was happening, YouTube was quick to respond:

Twitter Post From YouTube

This clarification made it seem that the booting of popular creators from the platform was a mistake, perhaps the result of unsupervised automated flagging systems or overzealous employees. However, even though several individuals had their accounts reinstated, another wave of banning followed.

There is an appeals process that many were able to go through to get their channels reactivated. Nevertheless, some remain terminated either because their appeals were denied or they elected not to appeal. Two of the formerly popular YouTube gambling channels that have still not been restored are “David Labowsky” and “Grape's Gambling Channel.” Even among users who were allowed back on to YouTube, some of them have had restrictions placed on what they can do, such as being prohibited from broadcasting live streams.

Content Makers Angry

Smiley Face: Anger

Many of the individuals who create gambling-related videos on YouTube rely on the platform for a significant amount of their income either through YouTube's own monetization program or arrangements they've made with third-party ad networks. They're thus not thrilled about the fact that their presence on the site can be halted without adequate explanation and seemingly on a whim.

Some of these people have negotiated deals with gaming firms to showcase products on their channels, and sudden account terminations throw these agreements into limbo until the situation can be resolved one way or the other. Even in the event that these accounts are eventually restored to good standing, the disruption caused can be difficult to recover from.

Take a look at what some of these video broadcasters had to say about the YouTube account terminations:

YouTube Channel With 100K+ Subscribers Suspended

 

Twitter User Critical of Account Closures

Because there's no indication of what exactly caused YouTube to act in the way it did, video makers are playing guessing games. Some of them are proactively deleting videos that they think might warrant enforcement action, such as those that contain profanity or mention drug use. Others are age-gating their content so that it's visible only to viewers over 18. Nobody really knows if these strategies are effective because YouTube has not been forthcoming in outlining why some gambling channels were targeted.

YouTube Losing Favor in the Marketplace

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YouTube was once the unquestioned king of video content, driving eager audiences into the hands of creative video producers without a lot of rules to follow or restrictions to comply with. Those days seem to be slipping into the rear view however.

In January, YouTube established tougher rules on how to qualify for its monetization system. Previously, creators had merely to collect 10,000 views on their videos to enable monetization. Now, one has to have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time during the past 12 months.

The new monetization requirements are no problem for elite channel owners who easily surpass the stipulated thresholds. However, people who are just getting started have a longer road to travel before they can begin to earn even a small income from their efforts.

YouTube has also been cracking down on videos relating to controversial subjects, like gun ownership, marijuana, and politics. It's often unclear what's allowed and what's prohibited much to the frustration of content makers.

Alternative Video Sites

Man Facing Three Paths

Quite a few people who post videos to YouTube are now exploring their other options rather than tying their fortunes to an increasingly unpredictable and unreliable organization. Even those who have decided to continue with their YouTube endeavors are increasingly broadening their horizons to include other sites too. In this way, they have some measure of protection in case something goes awry at YouTube.

Logos of Companies That Compete With YouTubeSome of the Video Sites That Compete With YouTube

A lot of live streamers, particularly those engaging in online poker playing from the USA, have already moved over to Twitch.tv. Although there's still a bit of uncertainty around the edges when it comes to what type of content is frowned upon at Twitch, its guidelines are a lot clearer and more transparent than YouTube's.

Professional Rakeback is hiring streamers to promote our website, articles, and partner poker sites. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us and tell us more about your stream. We would love to sponsor your quality stream!

Patreon is another interesting choice. It allows viewers to directly support content creators whose work they appreciate by funding them without the need for advertisers. Members can typically select from among several tiers of financial commitment with additional perks available to those who opt for the higher levels.

Unless YouTube improves its transparency and ability to communicate with content makers, it might find itself losing market share to these and other competitors going forward.