The History and Evolution of Online Gambling
Online gambling activities, such as sports betting and live casinos, are quite popular these days. Of course, there are many regulations regarding such activities. It’s still illegal and banned in quite a lot of countries.
But online gambling has grown huge within the past decade and has turned into a multi-billion-dollar industry. And considering that the internet itself is about 30 years old, it’s amazing to see how the gambling industry has evolved rapidly in the past two decades.
So how exactly did online gambling begin? How was it commercialized, and how did it turn into a successful industry that we know today? These are the questions we will be answering today, as we explain the full history of online gambling with a simple timeline.
History of Gambling
The roots of gambling itself are much ancient than you might have imagined. Six face dices were found in an Egyptian tomb that dated back to 3000 BC. There is evidence of some form of lottery game played in China during the second millennium BC. And different types of stakes were placed by people of ancient Rome and Greece as well.
Playing cards were believed to appear in China during the 9th century AD, and a simple version of the game Baccarat was also found in Italy in the 15th century as some records show. Different types of games resembling Blackjack, as we know today was detected during the 1600s. And in 1638 AD, the first casino ever – Ridotto – was established in Italy. A wheel game that is believed to be the origin of Roulette was found in Paris towards the end of the 18th century. Horse racing bets and lotteries were also popular in Britain during the 16th to 19th centuries.
All these pieces of evidence suggest that gambling has existed and steadily evolved along with human civilization.
The Origin and Timeline of Online Gambling
After the genesis of the internet in the 1990s, it didn’t take long for gambling to enter the online domain. The main events that launched the online gambling industry began in 1994. The timeline of online gambling and its growth into a billion-dollar industry is explained below.
Two main events are considered to be the birth of online gambling.
1. The first event was Antigua and Barbuda, a Caribbean nation, passing the Free Trade and Processing Act. This act was the first that allowed interested companies to apply for a license to become an online casino operator. Most of the first online casinos applied for a license under this act.
2. The second event was the launch of online gambling software by Microgaming. This was a big deal because it was the first platform that allowed people to gamble online. And over the years, Microgaming has grown into one of the most well-known providers of gambling software and games. Even today, they are powering thousands of games and software used by different online gambling operators.
Online payments and transactions are the most important aspect of any online gambling service. And Cryptologic pioneered the online payment system as they developed the Encrypted Communication Protocols in 1995.
It allowed financial transactions to be performed online with strong encryptions, securing both parties involved in a transaction. So it was now possible for gambling operators to receive payments and credit winnings using their software. And players would also be relieved to know that the give and take of their money would be safe and secure.
By late 1995, Microgaming had also developed several casinos and card games which online casinos could implement. These included blackjack, poker, roulette, etc.
The year 1996 witnessed the establishment of the first online casino – Intercasino – powered by Microgaming, secured by Cryptologic, and licensed under the Free Trade and Processing Act. Players started to register with the casino, and soon, Intercasino recorded the first wager made with real money on their site.
Another casino, the Gaming Club, also launched this year, and there is still no clear evidence as to which casino – Intercasino or Gaming Club – is the first online casino ever. However, Intecasino is widely regarded as the first online casino mainly due to the fact that the first real money wager was recorded on their site.
Four years after Microgaming launched the first online gambling software and two years after the first online casino went live, the year 1998 proved to be very favourable for the online gambling industry. The beginning of 1998 saw the release of the first-ever internet poker room by Planet Poker. A few months later, Microgaming also launched the first online progressive jackpot – Cash Splash.
But the biggest takeaway for online gambling in 1998 was that the industry generated more than 800 million dollars in revenue this year. And this huge progress took just a few years. So in four years, online gambling went from zero to a multimillion-dollar industry.
However, with all these highs, there were also a few lows as a US senator tried to prohibit gambling in the country by introducing the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. The good news for the industry that this bill failed to pass eventually.
The beginning of 1999 saw the launch of the first multi-player gaming platform by Boss Media. Now multiple players could soon join a single game and play against each other. This paved the way for many table games and card games in online casinos. On the other hand, the gambling scene in the US was still facing some opposition. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was once again revised and proposed, but yet again, it failed to pass. And on a global scale, the gambling industry saw a huge landmark with more than 700 sites operating around the world by mid-1999.
After the events of 1999, the next few years saw a significant growth of gambling sites and the industry as a whole. The biggest highlight of 2002 was that the gambling industry was now worth more than 4 billion dollars. Considering that the first online casino started just six years ago, the progress of the gambling industry was unbelievably impressive.
Another important event this year was the record-breaking jackpot prize of 1.5 million dollars bagged by a player in progressive slots. The player, whose information is kept anonymous for safety reasons, won 1.5 million dollars in the "Major Millions" progressive slots (powered by Microgaming) in the Captain Cooks Casino.
2003 and beyond
By 2003, online gambling was well established and moving forward smoothly. With hundreds of sites settled into the gambling scene and more sites launching every year, the gambling industry was worth about 12 billion dollars in 2005. But as the industry grew, there were also efforts to regulate gambling activities. And it was important to place appropriate regulations to avoid foul play, illegal or criminal activities, scams, and to protect the players.
The eCommerce Online Gambling Regulation and Assurance eCORGA was founded in 2003. The UK introduced the Gambling Act in 2005, and under this act, the UK Gambling Commission was launched in 2007. The US passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Internet Act in October 2006, prohibiting banks and financial institutions from proceeding payment for online casinos and gambling sites.
But despite regulations and oppositions, online gambling continued to grow as an industry, a source of revenue, and a form of entertainment for the general public.
And the influence of online gambling activities grew beyond Europe and America, and even entered Asia. In the Asian continent, one of the biggest and most favourable markets for online gambling was India.
While gambling activities are restricted for Indian companies and operators, there are no prohibitions for foreign casino sites to operate in the country. Due to such lax regulations and the fact that India has a huge population, many gambling sites are successfully operating in the country. Millions of Indian players are actively registered with different online casinos and enjoying their services.
The Future of Gambling Industry
With advances in technology, the online gambling industry is also evolving year by year. Payments have gotten extremely secure. Live casinos are available now, allowing players to play with a live dealer. Online casinos have escaped from desktops and computers and entered our mobile phones. Now we can carry entire online casinos in our pockets, as most sites have their own mobile apps.
And the future has more to offer, as we await the development of VR casino games, making for an immersive experience. So from its genesis to the current date, the online gambling industry shows no signs of stopping.