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Poker content creators woke up to an unhappy surprise last week.
YouTube is cracking down on videos promoting online gambling, specifically targeting some channels with legal online poker content. The apparent tightening of policy has affected a number of the industry’s most popular creators.
More than 65,000 people subscribe to Staples’ primary channel which, until recently, had more than 900 videos.
Staples actually has two channels, with 300 more videos and nearly 25,000 subscribers to his vlog. He provided Online Poker Report with an image of the correspondence from YouTube regarding the removals. Here’s the text:
Our team has reviewed your content, and unfortunately, we think it violates our sale of regulated goods policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube: [link]”
The policy referenced says that YouTube does not permit “content intended to sell certain regulated goods and services.” According to the terms, creators should avoid selling or linking to “online gambling casinos” in descriptions and comments.
The crackdown doesn’t appear to be a blanket ban on poker content. Most of, but not all of the targeted videos overtly promote contests and promotions at online poker sites.
Staples received an update from YouTube on Tuesday indicating that direct promotion was the primary issue. And, if what he’s being told is correct, the host is working to make it right for him and other poker content creators.
Poker content producers aren’t the only ones who aren’t thrilled with YouTube’s recent removal of videos. The zero-tolerance policy is being applied to anything that could be remotely considered “sensitive.”
Enter The Dojo, a popular martial arts parody channels with nearly 500,000 subscribers is one such case. The channel recently had its most popular video, “100 Ways To Attack The Groin,” removed for violating YouTube’s “sex and nudity policy” despite its apparent lack of either (judge for yourself).
That video was uploaded in 2014 and had in the neighborhood of 10 million views. Yet, somehow it’s only now running afoul of YouTube’s policy.
Considering what you can find on YouTube, this is an extremely liberal definition of sex and nudity. If the site is willing to draw a line between sex and nudity in Master Ken’s video, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s also linking poker content with online gambling promotion.
The elevated level of enforcement puts poker content creators in a pickle. And it presents companies like PokerStars, which have invested time and resources in marketing on such digital platforms, with a quandary.
The hope is YouTube will self-correct and walk back the way it enforces its policies surrounding gambling promotion. Or, at the very least, it might carve out online poker content from casino gambling.
If it doesn’t, the relationship between poker personalities and online poker sites may fundamentally change.
YouTube is the world’s largest video hosting platform, making it difficult for creators to focus solely on Twitch and other outlets. As such, we could start seeing toned-down content with a less-direct advertisement for online poker sites.
Such a shift could cut into the value poker personalities bring to the table as marketing tools.
Even if content creators want to abide by the new enforcement policy, they may not be able to. In a statement to OPR, Staples implied the problem isn’t really that YouTube has a policy. It’s the uncertainty of that policy.
“In my correspondence, it is clear that links are not OK,” Staples said. “What is not clear is what is (the) promotion of poker, because we have all had videos taken down that don’t link to poker sites.”
Staples went on to explain his view of the matter in the following statement:
“What is and isn’t okay for our game is not clear from YouTube. We have a large and active community that deserve to have their game have a place on the world’s largest video platform.
“Poker is not the same as all other gambling, and yet it is treated as such.
“We hope that someone will take a look at our game, and the type of content that we are making, and reconsider this blanket unclear policy on ‘gambling’.”
YouTube’s rules do provide some guidance on the types of prohibited content, but none represent a complete list. Regarding the sale of commercial goods and most other policies, the company’s best recommendation is “don’t post content if you think it might violate this policy.”
Creators who do violate YouTube’s terms are subject to “strikes” on their channel, with penalties for additional violations escalating up to complete removal from the platform.