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On Sunday, YouTube star Jake Paul uploaded a video called “Spent $5,000 ON MYSTERY BOXES & You WONT Believe WHAT I GOT… (insane),” where he spent most of his time opening virtual boxes on a site called Mysterybrand.net. On Monday, YouTube star Ricegum uploaded a video titled “How I got AirPods for $4,” where he basically did the same thing as Paul.
Now, both are facing criticism for promoting what many see as a gambling site to their young audiences.
YouTuber Keemstar, who runs the DramaAlert gossip channel, wrote that he was offered $100,000 to promote the site but turned it down.
Tanner Fox, who has 8.5 million subscribers, said he was offered the same deal and that it was “sketchy.”
In Paul’s video—which includes the #ad hashtag to let viewers know that there is advertising material in the vlog and a banner on the video that reads “This video is sponsored by MysteryBrand”—shows him opening boxes online. RiceGum, who did not include the #ad hashtag but said he was partnering with the site, goes through the same process.
Both link to mysterybrand.net in their video descriptions.
Unsurprisingly, both win big in videos that have accumulated a combined 3 million views as of this writing.
Paul doesn’t attempt to hide that he’s partnered with the website, saying, “We partnered with them because they’re the best and they have the dopest site and they have all the dopest products. On their site, you can literally win a Rolls Royce … You can win iPhones and iPads and all sorts of goods.” On multiple occasions, he calls the person who created the site a “genius.”
Paul shows himself signing up for Mystery Brand account. Then, he begins opening boxes virtually, where he wins a pair of Adidas Yeezy shoes, a pair of AirPods, and an iPhone. RiceGum, meanwhile, wins high-end sneakers, a robot vacuum cleaner, and the aforementioned AirPods. Both also win Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers multiple times—a fact that doesn’t thrill either of them.
Both videos also show Paul and Ricegum selling back the products they don’t want to the site (at a vastly reduced cost, of course). “There’s no losing in this,” RiceGum said.
In his video, Ricegum briefly wonders if it’s all a scam. Though it was an offhand comment at the end of his vlog, some YouTube commenters gave their thoughts.
One YouTuber named Maddy Black wrote, “Jake, I tried this website and I completely got scammed out of a large amount of money. I am very upset to see that you would be sponsored by a company that scams people out of money.” Another wrote, “I don’t like these mystery boxes being promoted by influencers especially ones that have such a young impressionable audience. This is gambling and shouldn’t be promoted to kids. Sorry.”
YouTuber Random Kid commented on Ricegum’s video, writing, “Imagine scamming the people who support you everyday.”
There are Reddit threads dating back to September with people questioning whether the site is legitimate and if it actually sends the prizes people are trying to win—answers on these threads are mixed.
Mystery Brand did not immediately respond to a Daily Dot request for comment, and neither Paul nor RiceGum have publicly addressed the controversy.
Like usual, it’s buyer beware on the internet. If a gambling site—or any facet of your life, for that matter—seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unless you’re really into wearing Chuck Taylor’s.
Update 7:48am CT, Jan. 3: After Ethan Klein of h3h3Productions uploaded a video that criticized Paul for his Mystery Brand video, Paul responded on Twitter.
That confused Klein.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.