The money shooter videos on YouTube are huge. But what is true and what is false?

John and Cheri, an Idaho couple married for 22 years, have always had a passion for arcade games and owned several. So when John was laid off in 2020, Cheri thought of the perfect way to cheer him up.

“I thought, What can I do to make him see that I am very confident in himsaid Cheri, 56, a ukulele enthusiast and former stay-at-home mom. (John and Cheri asked To input to withhold their surnames for their privacy.) “I decided to do something ridiculous that cost a lot of money. So I bought a coin pusher.

Jean and Cheri

Coin pushers are fun games filled with coins and sometimes prizes (including money). Players drop their own coins into the machine and onto a platform that constantly moves back and forth. The goal is to trigger a chain reaction that will push coins or prices from a second fixed platform to a payout plateau below. Although the machines are legal under federal law, coin pushers that offer cash prizes are banned in a number of states.

Owning their own coin pusher, of course, meant that John and Cheri had to store it themselves. And earning their own money over and over quickly got boring. So, in August 2020, the couple decided to start a YouTube channel to make their new hobby more exciting. This channel – We Play You Win, which has over 11,000 subscribers – is one of many channels in YouTube’s niche, which can attract millions of views every week.

Some vloggers in the space tout huge “buy-ins,” the amount you supposedly have to put in to play high-reward slots, and even bigger payouts. For example, there’s this credulity-testing video that allegedly shows the creator winning $10.8 million on a $2 million buy-in machine:

John and Cheri’s channel is much more humble and much more believable: they don’t pretend to win big. “We said, ‘No, we’re going to do something different,'” says John, a 40-year-old software engineer who has since found a new job in his field. Instead, they make their live streams interactive, offering small prizes like whoopee cushions to viewers who correctly predict the end results of their games.

The couple also invite their followers to chat in their comment sections and consider their fans to be friends. “It’s a family,” says Cheri. Each month, their community donates to Operation Smile, a charity that provides children with free cleft palate surgery.

Unfortunately, their wholesome approach has also caused them to lose followers, who are drawn to the “fancy” element that other channels play, according to John. “They’re looking for that kind of escape,” he says. “Like, ‘Oh, if only I could find one of these mysterious coin sellers in the world, I could pay off my mortgage.'”

Cheri says she gets upset when she sees people gravitating to coin pusher videos announcing things like a “Buy in $500,000!” and “TOTAL PROFIT”. “You want to tell them, ‘Look, the emperor has no clothes,'” she said. “They rip you off. Don’t go there! »

Matt MagnoneMatt Magnone

Critics allege that a number of popular coin pushing vloggers are actually operating from their own homes, using their own coin pushers – without revealing the truth to their audience. These creators will in turn ask their followers to fund their “game” by donating to them on YouTube live streams or joining their Patreons.

“It ruins everything for people trying to be honest,” says Matt Magnone, a 35-year-old full-time arcade vlogger from Pennsylvania who has three million subscribers on his YouTube and TikTok channels. “You get these few bad apples that stage things, and then when the rest of us legitimately win awards, we get questioned for it.”

crowded space

The coin-operated vlog space has become very crowded in recent years. “When I started, I was doing really well,” says Joshua Bartley, a full-time content creator from West Virginia who has 144,000 subscribers on his six-year-old channel. “There was no competition. So when that got down to 20 strings, I kind of hit rock bottom and leveled off.

Although he’s still able to support his wife and child through his YouTube earnings, PayPal donations, and gaming app affiliate codes he promotes on his channel, he doesn’t ‘m not thrilled with the rigged competition. “The chains that do well do two to three times better than me, because they claim to bet big. I don’t want to conduct myself that way because I care about my audience,” Bartley says. “I think we should be honest.”

Joshua BartleyYoutube

Other coin dealers agree that the best kind of content is direct content. Magnone has noticed people setting up more extreme machines – with massive gold bars and other extortionate prices you can’t find IRL – and doesn’t like how it impacts the wider scene of the push of parts. “I upload videos where I lose, just so my viewers know I have bad days too,” he says. “It might not get as many views, but it will definitely keep you transparent and real.”

Although coin-pushing vloggers To input we spoke to are reluctant to name names, mostly because they don’t want to get sucked into petty drama on YouTube, they say bad actors are easy to flush out. “The way you can spot someone being fake, other than if they claim to be operating in a state where it’s clearly illegal, is noise,” says Cheri. Coin pusher videos like Dalton’s Garage and A&V Coin Pusher both share strikingly similar background noises, which appear to be a loop of generic casino sounds.

Another sign that something is wrong, Cheri says, is when vloggers don’t show the earnings that actually come out of the machine, as is the case with What the Hales, an Ohio YouTube family that primarily publishes coin-operated content. Coin pushers that offer cash prizes, as opposed to tickets, are illegal in Ohio; the Hales claim that their videos are filmed “in the South”. Detective redditors found a distinctive Elvis-themed coin pusher, identical to the one used by What the Hales, in an arcade in Sandusky, Ohio; he offers tickets as prizes.

John, meanwhile, isn’t so concerned about the alleged fake videos. The problem, he says, is that creators are asking for financial assistance to cover their most likely gambling debts. “I saw thousands of dollars [worth of donations] on certain streams,” he says, though he declined to cite specific examples. “When you’re asking viewers for money – or implying you’re risking your money or next month’s rent – that’s where the ethical question comes in.”

Some members of the coin-pushing community became so unhappy with this kind of behavior that they targeted suspected charlatans. A vlog, made by a coin seller named ClawD00d, alleged that What the Hales was making fake videos. (Which the Hales didn’t answer To input‘s request for comment.) Bartley – who accepts donations and does not show his winnings coming out of the machine on his videos – was also in the crosshairs.

“If you just go look they talk and hit stuff down, hey, no harm no fault. But if they are convincing you send them money? This is Wrong.”

Bartley insists his videos are completely legit. “People comment saying ‘Why is there no one in the background?’ or ‘Where’s the casino noise?’ It makes me laugh. I basically play in a mall,” he says. Bartley tells To input he plays at a venue run by a close family friend, who supplies the coin pusher with cool prizes to appease Bartley’s audience.

Bartley even posted a video in 2019 in which he addressed his critics, showing his surroundings – although one commenter swore he saw a battery in the background and alleged that Bartley was operating from his basement . “The biggest drama over the years has been the creativity of other people’s imaginations. I’ve constantly had to explain myself,” says Bartley. “I’m friends with people who have the coin pusher. not at home.

Cheri and John are firmly on Bartley’s side — they think his videos are on the level. Their main concern is new arrivals. “There are new ones every month, and 99% of them are fake,” says Cheri. “If you’re just going to watch them talk and drop stuff, hey, no harm, no fault. But what if they convince you to send them money? It’s wrong.”

Ultimately, the couple just want people to know that a lot of what they’re watching isn’t real, so they don’t end up being separated from their money by scammers. “If there really were places where you could play these magical games [high-reward] coin pushers, he would be mobbed. There would be information all over Reddit, but there isn’t,” says John. “The Internet has no secrets, you know? This is simply not the case.

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