Social media influencers exist across every platform, industry type and personality nowadays and gambling is no different.
Palm Springs-based YouTuber Brian Christopher has been a leader in slot-playing videos since his channel Brian Christopher Slots – followed by more than 500,000 subscribers on that site and more than 600,000 on Facebook – started six years ago.
His popularity is now culminating in tangible spots across casinos. Last month, he announced a partnership with the Plaza that will result in a nonsmoking area with his name on it. And this week, slot manufacturer Gaming Arts will unveil Brian Christopher’s Pop’N Pays More, an expansion of Pop’N Pays featuring his likeness.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal spoke with Christopher by phone while he visited a Maryland casino for his channel in late June. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Review-Journal: How did you first start posting and when did you realize you could make a career out of it?
Christopher: I started my YouTube channel back in 2016. I just uploaded a few videos from one trip for fun. I think I put about five videos on my first and then I was done. I had no plans to upload any more videos after that. However, the videos themselves, they did very well. To my surprise, I got tons of subscribers from that.
I decided to upload some more videos after that, just to do a bunch of them again all at once on one day. They were all, like, three minutes long or so. And once again, these videos took off. I was invited from YouTube to join the partner program right then so I started making money on these videos.
Gambling is always extremely expensive and it’s a losing sport. YouTube was great but that doesn’t sound like very good business to make some money back and still lose money, so I was very cautious about it. Even then I saw it as a part-time gig to help support my acting career, maybe, but never in a million years did I think this could become my job.
Year over year we’ve just been doubling in size almost. Now, we have nine staff members. Every single week we’re at a different location, or in a different city or state, promoting another casino. While we’re on property, we’re filing all those videos with them. We’re also hosting livestreams and meet-and-greets, all other kinds of events like slot tournaments or group pulls together.
What is a common misconception or challenge about this career path?
I’m very careful about the way I gamble and play. I play with my “entertainment stash” – business budget, really. Because, I mean, I have to be able to make a video. So when people ask me, ‘What’s your budget for the weekend?’ I don’t have a straight answer for them. It’s more like, you need to play within your budgets. You’re doing it for fun. I’m doing it for work.
How has your channel evolved over the years?
When I started, there were only a handful of channels doing what I do. It was always my goal to try and up the game a bit, make it look a bit more professional, work on editing my thumbnails, and get into a groove of something. Then after about six months, I’m like, ‘OK, what can I do better now, to make it look nicer or innovate?’ Because over the years, now there’s thousands of these gambling channels that are essentially looking at the big guys and seeing what we’re doing, then trying to mimic or copy styles or themes we’re doing. So I have to keep reinventing myself to stand out and be different and unique.
So over the years, I have tried making 360 videos. About a year and a half ago or so, we added a second camera because everyone always wanted to see my reactions. We’ve done our simulcast livestreams through Facebook and YouTube frequently, and upping our resolution on our videos to make them look better. We’ve done different kinds of challenge ideas to make it exciting, and just being able to travel to different locations every week definitely sets us apart from our competition. Most of the other channels will stay just with their local casino or head to one casino in Vegas or something like that. We’re always traveling and hosting events and those are really exciting videos, too.
You traveled even during the early months of the pandemic, and it looked like a good opportunity for you to show people what things looked like during that point of the pandemic. What was it like to be the eyes, ears and respiratory system of your viewers?
I felt like it was my responsibility to show them thatbecause they all rely on me to give them the casino information. When the first casino was reopening, I wanted to be there because I knew that there’d be so many questions about what it was like to be in a casino now. I booked the first flight I could get out there safely. I did my livestream and talked them through the whole process.
It was really eye-opening for the viewers to see what it was like. That was the early stages, I wanted to do that and I also felt really bad for all the casinos that were shut down for a few months, all the workers that lost their money and wages. I reached out to tons of casinos offering my services for free. I didn’t want to charge anything. Then I donated all of my Super Chat donations from all my livestreams to the casinos so they could give it to their staff as a little thank you for them hanging out.
My fans definitely appreciated seeing it. I know immediately everyone was like, “Oh I’m not going to do that.” Eventually, I mean years later, that came around because we had no choice.
You have a new partnership with a slot machine, Pop n ‘Pays MORE – with your likeness on it. Licensing for machines is, of course, very common, but it seems like you’re the first – or one of the first – of the internet celebrities to be on it. How unique is this?
Definitely the first, which is incredibly humbling and exciting. I hope it’s the first of many that we do. I know our fans are super excited about those games. Pop n ‘Pays is already a tried-and-true brand, and our fans love that game. I feel like I was able to add my voice, both literally and figuratively, into this machine to make it a lot more fun, to add some new experiences in it and many more ways for them to win in this game. The bonus itself is so exciting. There’s a lot of action on most of your spins, as well, which is unique to the game.
I recorded over 200 sayings for this. They had a list of things for me to say that they’ve heard me say in my videos, and I have my own list of extra things and even came up with some more during that. Sayings that were congratulating them on hitting the progressive jackpot; all my favorite sayings on there, like the word “rude” I say a lot in my videos or “Oh, nelly!” when I get excited about something. There are a few little easter eggs that some of our superfans might actually find as well.
What do you think this says, more symbolically, about the overlap of internet culture and slots or gambling to have an internet personality on a machine?
I think it speaks to what we do as influencers. You see it in other realms, like MrBeast has his own chocolate bars, he has burger joints now. It’s a proven concept, like when our fans see something that we do, they want to be a part of that experience, whether it’s even just us showing off a new T-shirt. Because I’m so well-known for slot machines and the love of them, if I love a game and was part of putting it together, you just know that our fans are going to search that game out to play.
We have numerous locations that we’re going to be flying out to over the first few weeks just to promote the game, but it’s going out to many, many more casinos across the country. Time will tell how it overly performs in the end, but if the original success of Pop n ‘Pays is anything, this one’s definitely going to take it to the next level.
Do you meet people at the casino or casino executives who are confused about influencing?
There’s definitely tons of casinos who still don’t understand what an influencer is. Those are the ones who if you go check out their social media, they’re showing you a picture of a drink, a picture of a steak. Like, they just don’t get it. Considering there are other casinos out there that really get involved, and they’ll showcase players wins and things that actual players want to see. I don’t get that excited by a steak meal or something that we’ll see on Facebook. That’s not gonna get me to go to your casino. If you want me to gamble there, show me some gambling stuff.
We have a proven track record. I’ve been doing this for six years now. We can provide all kinds of stats to casinos to show them our worth and our value to them. All it takes is one trip to a casino to really see how valuable we are and what we can bring. And then immediately they’re gonna want us to come back, for sure.
How do you use your platform to persuade casinos into smoke-free policies?
I’ve been saying this for years. Unfortunately, thanks to COVID, that opened people’s eyes to it. There were a lot of them that decided to open a smoke-free to start with. It was kind of like a blessing in disguise because they actually saw that, “Wow, we can do just as well. Our audience actually prefers it and our workers definitely prefer it. ” Because young workers these days, they didn’t grow up seeing cigarette smoke anywhere and all of the sudden, we expect them to just show up and breathe that in the whole time. No one wants to do that.
I feel happy about myself pushing it. I feel like I’ve been responsible for encouraging because he knows to remain smoke free. In a lot of my contracts, I’ve stipulated that you need to remain smoke free for me to continue coming to visit with you. This push with Plaza, I think is definitely a step in the right direction and I hope it’ll be a proven one to show everybody how popular it will be and how it doesn’t really affect the excitement of a casino.
What do you think is in the future for gaming and influencing?
Our new (social media friendly) space opening up in The Plaza, the renovated area itself will have all kinds of influencers who want to come and share their experiences there. I know everyone will be looking at it, especially in downtown Vegas, to see how well it performs.
In any casino that has allowed us to come and film inside of them, they’ve definitely reaped the benefits from that. They know that’s the place to go to film that because that’s where Brian Christopher goes. And Brian Christopher has told them that they’re allowed to film there. So they go there. They don’t get harassed by security, they can have a good time and showcase their fun with their friends.
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at [email protected] Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.