The History of Online Gambling and Casinos
Although gambling and the Internet may seem like an inevitable match made in heaven, the Web was actually around for quite a while before casinos went online. Now, just two decades on, business is booming and online gambling has a history almost as rich and colourful as the traditional games played in land-based casinos.
Here is a brief overview of the history of iGaming since it first emerged:
A New Legal Act Changes the Game
The surprising truth that online casinos only came out sometime after the advent of the Internet has one not-so-simple explanation – legal challenges. Despite the fact that the there was already a will and a way to offer online gambling much earlier, it wasn’t until 1994, when the small Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda passed its Free Trade and Processing Act, that the game could really get underway. Without getting too complicated, suffice it to say that this Act made possible the legal licensing of internet gambling operators.
And thus began the history of online gambling, although legal woes would continue to plague the industry throughout its existence.
Microgaming and Cryptologic Set up Shop
At the same time, while the legislative groundwork was being laid in Antigua and Barbuda, a software company called Microgaming was preparing the necessary technology on the Isle of Man.
In 1995, with the use of fellow developer, Cryptoglogic’s cutting-edge security software, Microgaming launched what many believe to be the first online casino in history –The Gaming Club. Thereafter, in 1996, Cryptologic launched its own virtual gambling venue – Intercasino. Numerous other operators followed and more continue to emerge to this day.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is Formed
The next milestone in the history of online gambling was the 1996 formation of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission – a regulatory body with the authority to grant online casino licenses – in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Canada.
Online Gambling Hits the Jackpot
With all of these developments, the Internet was finally ready to take online gambling out of history and into the future. And this happened with a big, booming bang. Between 1996 and 1997, the number of online casinos grew from just 16 to over 200. By 1998, global internet casino revenues had grown to in excess of US$ 830 million.
Sportsbooks and Online Poker Enter the Fray
As history would have it, this boom in the online gambling industry could not be ignored and it wasn’t too long before other players got involved. The first of these to go online was the sportsbook, which made its initial internet appearance in 1996. Two years later, in 1998, Planet Poker entered the history books as the world’s first online poker site.
Legal Challenges Persist to the Present
There has never been a time in the history of online gambling when the sport has not faced major legal obstacles, particularly in countries – like the US and Australia – that take a hard line on gambling. Among the legislative nightmares that the industry has faced over the years are the un-passed US Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1999, the Australian Interactive Gambling Moratorium Act of 2000, and the US Unlawful Internet Gaming Act of 2008.
Online Casinos Hit the Road
The latest history-making online gambling development is the mobile casino, which has revolutionised the industry once more by allowing gamblers to play online anytime, anywhere using their smartphones or other mobile electronic devices.
Today, the total value of the online gambling industry is estimated at roughly US$ 40 billion and more history has yet to be made.