How Do Casino Streamers Make Money?
February 21, 2020
Casino streaming channels are some of the most fun ways to learn about new slots and live casino games.
But while the most entertaining streamers do seem to genuinely enjoy what they do, they can’t realistically be expected to do it for free.
So just how do slot streamers turn their passion for casino games into a source of income?
Let’s look at the main methods that your favourite slot streaming channels use to cover their costs and (hopefully) turn a profit.
Twitch allows streamers to collect channel subscriptions for $5/month. This allows the most dedicated followers to get access to premium content. Twitch gives the channel 50% of this income i.e. $2.50 (£1.94) per subscriber. While this doesn’t exactly represent a pot of Leprechaun gold, this money can go some way towards paying for that green screen or video camera.
Another variant on the subscription model is to use the Patreon platform. This allows fans of the streamer to support them with small monthly financial donations. Higher tiers of donations allow viewers access to premium content. The Patreon model was quite popular at the dawn of the slot streaming age (around 2016 or so) but has fallen out of favour in recent years as the industry becomes more explicitly commercial.
Preroll adverts on Twitch and YouTube
Both Twitch and YouTube gain the lion’s share of their income via prerolls ads (you know, those adverts where your mouse finger instinctively moves towards the ‘Skip Ad’ button). The two platforms will share a portion of this income with the channel where the preroll ads are shown. On YouTube, channels need to have a certain audience size before they can share in this income, so this option is only really open to those with subscriber numbers greater than 10,000 or so.
Slot Streamer Merchandise
Most successful casino streamers understand the importance of branding. The cleverest have even turned this into an income stream, by selling branded merchandise to fans. Thanks to e-commerce sites like streamelelements.com, baseball caps, t-shirts, mugs and hoodies can all be sold to slot fans, making a small profit for the streamer, and helping build brand awareness.
Casino Affiliate Income
This is where the majority of casino streamers gain the bulk of their income. On Twitch, streamers will encourage viewers to sign up with certain casinos using special codes. On both YouTube and Twitch, viewers will be directed to a separate website where they can see that streamer’s recommended casinos. Sometimes there will be a giveaway offer to further boost sign-up rates. Thanks to the wonder of web tracking cookies, the streamer is awarded certain financial rewards when that viewer deposits money at that casino. This could be a fixed, one-time payment when the user first deposits cash, or there could be revenue share agreements where the streamer gets a cut of all the player’s future losses.
Online Casino Sponsorship
Similar to the affiliate business model, the most popular streamers might sign a sponsorship deal with a particular casino. In this case, you can expect them to play slots exclusively at that casino, and all the advertising will be focused around sending viewers to open an account at that casino. If you see a streamer recommending a single casino, all the time, it’s likely that they are operating under a sponsorship deal.
Direct Investment by Casinos
In exceptional cases, casinos may invest in the streamer (or group of streamers) directly. The LeoVegas group bought a controlling stake in Casino Grounds at the start of 2018, for a cool SEK30m (£2.7m), making the likes of Nick Preston rather wealthy in the process (it has done precisely nothing to stop him swearing like a docker, sadly). What did LeoVegas get for this in return? Well as you might expect, their flagship brand is the highest-rated casino on the Casino Grounds website. But it also allows LeoVegas to gain a cut of the affiliate income paid out by their rival operators to the Casino Ground streamers. And there is nothing sweeter in the world than getting a monthly cheque from your direct competitors.
What are the costs of running a casino streaming channel?
Clearly, there is a lot of money to be made in casino streaming, but what costs do streamers face?
At the start of a channel’s life, the main cost will be the streamer’s time. Spending hours a week spinning slots to a camera, and later editing the footage for a highlights reel, is a time-consuming process. Could the streamer earn more per hour stacking shelves at Tesco? Undoubtedly, yes.
What’s more, starting a new channel and getting the YouTube and Twitch algorithms to notice that you even exist can be a long and tedious process, with no guarantee of success. Much of the first few months of a streamer’s career involves broadcasting to a tiny audience, who won’t provide nearly enough income to break even. Even some of today’s big names – Chipmonkz being the perfect example – were ready to throw in the towel early on, before a few big wins brought the crowds (and affiliate income) rolling in.
And of course, most slot streamers lose money over time, just the same way as most slot players do. Those 96% RTP slots still mean that a streamer loses 4% on average to the casino every thousand spins – and the average streamer will be spinning several thousand spins a week. Even just 2500 spins per week will – on average, playing 96% RTP slots – deplete their starting balance by 10% every week.
Sure, the occasional epic win will keep streamers in the game that bit longer, but overall, most streamers have to regularly top up their account balance with fresh funds. If the combined income streams mentioned above don’t cover this, then their business model won’t make sense, long-term. Once you consider the insatiable demand from audiences for high-stakes, risky action, then this can turn into a serious funding issue for lightly capitalised streamers.
The old adage that “the easiest way to get a million dollars is to start off with two million dollars”, could easily be applied to the slot streaming niche. This is certainly a high-risk endeavour, at least at the start of a streamer’s career.
And while some casinos may offer unlimited reload bonuses to their star streamers, this is likely to alienate that streamer’s fan base if the information gets out. You just have to look at the Roshtein play money/reload bonus scandal from 2019 to see this. Many in the streaming community considered it unfair that Roshtein could play with such high-stakes, safe in the knowledge that his casino sponsors would underwrite any losses with juicy 100% reload bonuses.
Casino streamers have a variety of funding methods open to them. A streamer’s main business goal will be to ensure that these income streams cover the cost of their time and the inevitable costs of playing slots. If they can achieve this, then they can expect to earn a decent enough income.
The biggest slot streamers can expect royal treatment from their casino partners, either in the shape of sponsorship deals, unlimited reload bonuses or – in the case of Casino Grounds – even have part of their business bought out by a casino.
The most critical part of a casino streamer’s journey is at the beginning, as many simply run out of funds before they build enough of an audience. New streamers need to find ways to hook audiences early, either by the force of their personality or by exploring new sub-niches in the slot streaming landscape.
In our view, there are some clear gaps in the casino streaming market which are begging to be filled. In a later article, we will explore these in-depth.
For now, we encourage you to give new streamers a chance, since many of today’s biggest and most entertaining names started out with just a handful of subscribers.
And it would be a real shame if Chipmonkz had ended up stacking shelves in Tesco.
Frank Arnred is a copywriter and iGaming blogger based in Aarhus, Denmark. He writes for a number of casino blogs and has recently gotten into streaming himself in a big way. Frank hopes to one day win big on a Megaways slot like his slot streaming heroes.