James "PhantomL0rd" Varga, a popular Twitch streamer and YouTuber has been booted from Twitch. Varga's streams involved a substantial amount of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) skin gambling prior to Twitch's ban of that content last week.
Yesterday, Varga's channel was replaced with a simple message. "The community has closed this channel due to terms of service violations," it says. When we reached Twitch for comment, a representative told us it does not comment on TOS violations.
Because Twitch is remaining silent, speculation about the reason behind Varga's ban is swirling. A popular theory surfaced by esports reporter Richard Lewis is that Varga promoted without disclosure another skin gambling site, CSGOShuffle. Lewis came into possession of transcripts that allegedly paint a picture of Varga's ownership of the site, betting with house money, and rigging auctions.
We have been provided the entire transcripts, but we cannot verify their provenance. Requests for comments sent to both Varga and CSGOShuffle owner Duhau Joris have gone unanswered.
Last week, Twitch outright banned gambling streams. This comes after multiple popular influencers were found to have been engaged in rigging and deception.
In April, Twitch appears to have quietly instituted a rule that limited gambling streams to less than 30 minutes of every hour. When we inquired about this, Twitch declined to address our question and pointed us instead to its new terms of service. Valve has also taken a firm stand against skin gambling, and has indicated it is issuing cease and desist orders to sites.
We continue to investigate this story and are working to verify Lewis' claims and the transcripts he provided. Until that time, we can only confirm that Varga has been at least temporarily banned from Twitch for unspecified offenses.
This isn't the first time Varga has manipulated Twitch's platform for his own gains. In 2013, he conspired with a group initiating distributed denial of service attacks against a number of online games. During that day, his stream was the most popular on Twitch, as the service took no action to intervene and cease his activities.
YouTube needs to take similar steps to Twitch. How Tom "ProSyndicate" Cassell, Trevor "TmarTn" Martin, and Lewis "PsiSyndicate" Stewart still have their accounts after multiple disclosure violations, outright deception, and fraud is a travesty. Despite repeated requests for comment, YouTube has declined to engage with the media on this issue.
Twitch isn't blameless here, either. The ban is a necessary step, but the company claims gambling streams were in violation before that. Despite claims that gambling has been considered "non-gaming content," the platform was slow to act on its policies. Varga and other partners were seemingly exempt from action, but the ban signals that these double standards may have come to an end, at least for this issue.