Tyler Niknam was getting out of Texas. Niknam, 30, is a top streamer on Twitch, where he’s better known as Trainwrecks to his 1.5 million followers. For hours on end, Niknam was hitting the slots on Stake.com, an online cryptocurrency casino and his most prominent Twitch sponsor, to live audiences of 25,000. He’d been winning big, sometimes as much as $400,000 in crypto in one fell swoop, and he never seemed to go broke. The problem? It wasn’t allowed.
If you visit Stake on a US-based browser, a message will quickly pop up on the site: “Due to our gaming license, we cannot accept players from the United States.” Though Stake doesn’t possess a gambling license in any state, Nikam and other US gamblers easily circumvent this by using VPNs. Promoting gambling sites that cannot operate in the US and making money by referring US residents to them may constitute promoting illegal gambling, legal experts told WIRED.
“Canada needs to happen asap,” Niknam wrote in a private Discord DM to Felix “xQc” Lengyel, 25, Twitch’s number two streamer. Lengyel briefly streamed slots but stopped in June. “You cannot show you’re on Stake at all.” A few days later, Niknam arrived in Canada, where he settled into a routine—gambling in a mostly empty apartment, sometimes more than a dozen hours a day. (Niknam and Lengyel did not respond to WIRED’s requests for comment.)