Online Casino History – A sneak peek at the industry’s phenomenal growth
Online casinos – the birth of a new era in gambling
Speak of casinos and the first thing that comes to mind is Las Vegas and The Strip, and of course, the infamous ‘Bugsy’ Siegel. The iconic mobster built the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Vegas, which was the start of his gambling operations in Nevada. This sparked off an era of glamour, gambling and gangsters although the latter is now not a significant part of the present day scene. The allure of The Strip has thousands of visitors from all over the globe coming to Vegas, hoping for a slice of luck at the reels or tables. However, the logistics of a trip to Vegas are a deterrent for many. But this doesn’t stop everyone from gambling, thanks to the birth of online casinos.
Technology and the sheer will to bring gambling to the doorsteps of gamblers around the world brought about the concept of online casinos. The industry has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 1994 when Antigua and Barbuda opened its doors to online gambling with the passing of the Free Trade & Processing Act. The Act made is possible for operators to apply for online gambling licenses.
The very same year, Isle of Man based Microgaming developed the first online casino software that led to the launch of the first Microgaming online casino. Cryptologic soon followed suit with the development of encrypted communication protocols to make gambling software safe and secure for financial transactions. In 1996, ICI or Internet Casinos Inc. launched an online casino out of Turks and Caicos where money wagers were permitted along with access to the National Indian Lottery. Also in 1996, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission was formed to license and regulate online casinos. Microgaming went on to make history in 1998 with the launch of Cash Splash, the first ever online progressive jackpot slot, Cash Splash while Planetpoker followed with the first internet poker room. By the end of 1998, there were as many as 700 online casinos in operation. In 1999, the Australian government licensed Lasseters, the first online casino in the country.
Online casinos get a promising start to the new millennium
The beginning of the new millennium presented several challenges for the online casino industry that generated over $2.2 billion in revenue. Online gambling truly went global in 2001 as the Isle of Man, Alderney, and Gibraltar began to issue licenses. With the boom came stricter laws that restricted wagering online. Online casinos appointed reputed independent organizations such as eCogra and TST or Technical Systems Testing to audit their systems.
In 2004, Microgaming made a mark for itself in the industry with the launch of over 250 online casino games. Their progressive jackpot was worth over $160 million in 2005. Online gambling reached its peak in 2005 with the passage of the most liberal gambling legislation in Europe, the 2005 UK Gambling Act.
However, online gambling in the USA received a major setback when the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) came into force. This resulted in many international operators moving out of the US market since the Act deemed it illegal for credit card processors and banks to permit financial transactions on online gambling sites. The next year, US Congressman Barney Frank pushed for a legislation to overturn the UIGEA. Microgaming pulled out its US operations in 2008, leaving Real Time Gaming (RTG) and Vegas Technology in the US market.
Online casinos continue to boom undeterred 3
Moves by the US government did not deter online casino fans from playing their favorite games. The industry continued to grow with an estimated $21 billion in gambling revenue recorded in 2008. By 2010, there were over 860 online casinos with several mergers taking place. PartyGaming formed the world’s largest publicly traded gambling company after its merger with Bwin. Currently, the industry continues to generate revenues as much as $49 billion.
Today, gamblers have the privilege to play their favorite games on smarthphones and tablets. Over $10 billion were wagered at mobile casinos in 2013 while social gambling getting off to a great start as well. No matter what, the industry continues to grow, so if slots, blackjack, roulette or video poker are what you fancy, you can be sure to find several online casinos to whet your appetite for some fun, entertainment, and a chance to win the jackpot.