Yes, there was a time when people lived without the Internet. But if you ask anyone today, he or she would probably find it almost impossible to imagine a world without the ability to go online. Ever since it was launched, the World Wide Web has become an essential part of practically everyone’s lives. And whether we like it or not, it has invaded almost every single aspect of our lives. We are now largely dependent on the Internet.
Our growing dependence on the Internet, just like almost everything else in this world, has both a good and bad side. On the positive side, it has changed the way a majority of industries work, and for the most part, the change has been for the better. It has made processes more convenient and products and services a lot more accessible. Towards this end, the Internet has also spawned countless new industries.
One of the industries that were greatly affected by the dawn of the Internet was the gambling industry. Regardless of where you are today, you would most likely have heard of things such as online gaming, online poker, online sports betting, and online casinos. You may even have given these things a try at least once. But just when and how did the gambling world start using the Internet to their advantage as well? Let’s find out.
History of Online Casinos
No one is certain if the emergence of online casinos can be attributed to a single major event, but if it can, then that event would have to be the implementation of the Free Trade & Processing Act of the Antigua and Barbuda government in 1994. When the law was passed, the small Caribbean nation was effectively given the power to grant a license to any company that wanted to start an online casino.
In that same year, over 4,000 miles away across the ocean, there was another important event that was unfolding and would soon contribute to the eventual birth of the online casino: A software company had just been established in the Isle of Man. That company’s name is Microgaming.
The company was then comprised of a small team that did not have much of a budget to speak of. What they did have was drive and perseverance, which is why size and budget constraints did not prevent them from becoming the team responsible for creating the world’s first-ever fully-functioning online casino.
The casino was called The Gaming Club, and it had very little in common with the online gaming venues we know today. But it was the first to give gamblers a chance to play their favourite casino games on their computers at a time when the concept of the World Wide Web was still starting to sink in for most people, and so it took the world by storm. Over the years, a number of other companies have tried to take credit for the work of Microgaming. But the team’s dedication and hard work, coupled with their incredible achievements later on, have cemented their place in the industry as a symbol of innovation and established them as the true leader in the online gambling world to this day.
In 1995, another important player in online gambling made itself known--Cryptologic. This company specialises in real money transactions done over the Internet. At the time, the product and service they offer was recognised as the missing link towards the creation of a real money online casino. With their launch of InterCasino, which is now known as one of the world’s oldest online casinos as well as the very first to offer real cash betting, Cryptologic established itself as a true revolutionary.
The company completely changed the way money transactions worked online and made the process faster and safer for players. This erased all doubt that they deserve a place a special place in the hall of fame for online gambling, alongside important names like Microgaming.
The Popularisation of Casino Websites
Not long after the launch of the first online casinos, people started to realise their huge potential. Soon enough, they became very popular among casino players primarily because they offered people a new way to enjoy gambling. And in the following months, many of the other gambling companies were inspired by InterCasino’s success and decided to follow their example.
Several new online casinos have emerged over the years, and the field has become extremely competitive. In their quest to be the best, every online casino operator tried to offer the highest number of game titles or the widest variety of game types. And because computer technology wasn’t as advanced then as it is now, it became a huge limiting factor, forcing companies to think outside the box to convince players to choose their casino. This is how companies came up with various schemes meant to attract more customers and win over their competitors. This is also how the now popular welcome bonus came into existence.
The heavy competition that developed among online casino operators led to the fast improvement of online games and software in terms of quality. More and more features were introduced, and online casinos quickly became all the rage across the globe. Things like multiplayer games themed slots, and features like progressive jackpots were introduced, further increasing the appeal of online casinos. Since then, software developers and game providers have been highly focused on innovation and quality. The goal has been to continually provide players all over the world with the best possible experience on their online platforms.
The Emergence of Live Dealer Games
With the passage of time, technologies improved. With this improvement, the experience players got from online casinos got better and better. The graphics are now of much higher quality, the sound effects are now a lot more realistic, and software flaws are now rarely seen. Still, most hardcore gamblers preferred the traditional way of gambling, and chose not to even give the online counterparts of their favourite casino games a try.
The solution found by online casino operators was live dealer games. Modern technology now gives players the ability to play while watching a live stream, thereby getting a genuine casino feel even when playing in the comfort of their own home. These days, more players have started showing a preference for live dealer games over RNG ones. If you go online and check out various online casinos, you will see that practically all of them already have a live section in place.
The Birth of Mobile Casinos
Before it finally became the global phenomenon that we know today, there was one more thing online casinos had to address. Mobile devices have become so popular, and people were wanting to do everything on the go more and more. Of course, the online casino world had to adapt. The good news for online casino operators is that today’s smartphones and tablets--even the least expensive options--have endless capabilities, and they offer computing power that’s way better than the PCs and laptops of about 15 years ago.
All reputable casinos therefore invested huge amounts of time, money, and effort into making their online platforms mobile-friendly. Today, many of them have versions of their site that can run on any smartphone or tablet just as well as it runs on desktop and laptop computers. So, if you’re the kind of player who wants to have access to all your favourite casino games, you’ll be glad to know you now have a healthy list of mobile-friendly online casinos to choose from.
Online Sports Betting and Its Origins
Shortly after online casinos became popular, people started betting on sports events online as well. The first-ever website to offer online sports betting services was Intertops, which was launched in 1996. Existing operators were quick to follow suit, and several new companies opened up shop. Same as with the casinos, online sports betting quickly became a highly competitive field. Now, it’s normal to see bonuses, enhanced odds, free bets, and other special offers meant to attract more customers.
The year 2002 was when bookmakers started offering live betting, which means customers were finally able to place bets as a sporting event unfolds. Live betting became very popular among sports betting enthusiasts and made online betting sites even more popular. They are now deemed superior to traditional, land-based bookmakers. Today, a good number of land-based bookmakers do still exist, but a growing number of people now prefer their online counterpart.
Online Poker Joins the Fray
Just like almost every other online version of products and services, online poker has become very popular in recent years. Its growth and popularity began in 1998 with the launch of Poker Planet. Unfortunately, the website was unable to truly function as intended because of low dial-up Internet speed along with other technical problems. Fortunately for online casino operators, these early setbacks weren’t enough to discourage players from enjoying online poker.
As technology improved, better sites were launched and the online poker field was finally able to truly take off. These days, players get the opportunity to play at online poker sites that could really give land-based establishments and tournaments a run for their money. The number of game variants they offer, as well as the quality of experience are certainly at par with the world’s best poker venues.
A website called Paradise Poker was launched in 1999, and it was immediately embraced. It featured several popular versions of the game, including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Five-Card Draw. The site attracted a lot of players and quickly became a huge success.
But what really changed the online poker landscape was when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in 2003. He took with him the amazing prize of $2.5 million. What made his win remarkable was that he qualified for the tournament by playing a tournament at PokerStars--one of the world’s most popular online poker sites--worth only $40. His amazing win had everyone hoping to achieve the same thing, leading to the instant boom in online poker’s popularity.
Online Gambling -- Important Milestones
A quick look at the history of online gambling would show the following highlights:
- In 1996, the world’s first-ever online casino, InterCasino, was launched.
- In 1998, the very first online poker room was launched.
- In 1999, multi-player gaming was introduced, enabling players to gamble and socialise online at the same time.
- In 2003, the independent, standard authority eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation Act (eCOGRA) was created.
- In 2006, the United States Senate passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
- In 2008, progressive slots saw jackpots pass the $5.5 million mark.
- In 2011, a player won the $11.7 million progressive jackpot in the Mega Fortune slot of leading game developer Net Entertainment.
- In 2014, Bitcoin was accepted as crypto-currency.
- In 2015, Microgaming celebrated their biggest progressive jackpot win, which was worth over £13.2 million.
- In 2016, Microgaming launched their first batch of Virtual Reality headset games, which used Oculus Rift technology.
- In 2018, the world’s very first 100% artificial intelligence-built online casino, Omnia Casino, was launched.
What the Future Holds
So, now that you know when and how online casino casino gaming came to be, you may also want to know what the future holds for the industry. The online casino market is currently worth almost $46 billion and by 2024, it is expected to be worth about $94 billion. This means it is expected to more than double in size in the coming years. This growth rate is unmatched by any other industry thus far.
The estimated growth rate comes as no surprise, considering how far the industry has come in the 20 years since it first came to be. Several operators are now exploring the potential of virtual reality games that have the capability to detect the actions of players. More virtual reality casinos are expected to be launched in the coming years, as technology improves even more. Will virtual reality gambling someday become the most popular form of entertainment among gambling enthusiasts? Well, anything is possible.