A Brief History of Online Gambling

Have you ever wondered how it all happened? Online gambling is such a huge phenomenon. It has become one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down!

In a relatively short space of time, we have seen the online casino and gambling market grow exponentially. But find out where it all began in our brief history of online gambling!

online gambling bannerOnline gambling is undoubtedly one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and it has all happened relatively quickly. In just a few short decades, it’s gone from nothing to a multi-billion dollar industry!

Things don’t seem to be slowing down either with expectations that the global online gambling market will reach a heady US$73 billion by 2024! So how did it happen and when?

Let’s take a magical trip back in time before it all began. Cue wavy flashback lines…

If you can remember life before the internet when Amazon was just a big river, and you actually took the time to tape music off the radio, like us you probably thought life seemed a lot simpler back then. But the birth of the internet has opened up a whole heap of opportunities and knowledge. The thought of living without it would seem almost impossible these days.

Subsequently, the emergence of eCommerce has meant that brands are focusing more on their online sales and growth. Consumers are opting to spend more time online thanks to smartphone technology, making it quick and convenient to buy pretty much anything you need from the palm of your hand. Never mind the social media platforms that allow us to share news and stories with your nearest and dearest all over the world.

The internet has also opened up a massive opportunity for the online gambling industry. Many gambling and sports fans turning to online casinos and sportsbooks to place their bets rather than heading out the door to their local bookmaker or casino. The story of the growth of online gambling is an interesting one with plenty of twists and turns. It’s not all been plain sailing as our article will reveal!

History of Gambling banner

The nineties gave us a lot of great stuff, Nintendo 64, the first Harry Potter Book (yup, it’s that old) and the ability to wear head to toe denim without anyone batting an eyelid. But did you know the nineties also gave us online casinos?

Humble beginnings

There are a few different opinions about when it all started. However, in 1994 Antigua and Barbuda passed their Free Trading and Processing Act which basically allowed licenses to be granted to organisations wishing to open online casinos so let’s start our story there.

Around this time, Cryptologic, an online security software company, developed a way to make secure financial transactions over the internet and opened InterCasino (a brand that is still around today). Microgaming was also ready to spot an opportunity and were formed in 1994 and claim to be the first to market with their real money online casino called The Gaming Club. Who came first, Cryptologic or Microgaming is still up for debate, but things certainly moved fast after that!

Of course, online casinos looked very different back then, and today’s casino fans would probably be a little disappointed with what they found. The number of games available was limited, and gaming technology and software were just in their infancy, so performance was slower and graphics much more fundamental. Things were changing though as more and more companies jumped on the online gambling bandwagon!

Fast forward

A few short years later, and reports were showing that online gambling revenues had exceeded US$830 million in 1998. Now that is some growth rate!

By now, online casinos had become hugely popular with gamblers opting to play from the comfort of home rather than head out of the door to their nearest casino or bookmaker. The convenience and speed meant it was something you could do in your own leisure time and when it suited you. It was also cheaper when you take into account the travel costs and effort involved to get to your nearest casino, which may be many miles away!

The market growth attracted many new casinos and betting brands and boy did they up their game! With a quickly saturated market, brands needed to offer better gaming options for their players and also bonuses! The introduction of welcome bonuses encouraged players to try out different brands with tempting free spins offers and cash bonuses. This is a method we still see used today although legislation in some countries has thankfully meant that casinos have to be a lot more upfront and honest about their wagering requirements these days!

By the early 2000’s more than 8 million people had participated in online gambling. A figure that would only continue to rise over the coming years. By now things had moved on significantly with multiplayer games, more advanced and graphically impressive online video slots and progressive jackpots. In fact, it was in 2001 when at The Sands of the Caribbean a record-breaking jackpot was won by one lucky player to the tune of $414k! Compare that to some of today’s multi-million dollar jackpots, and you get a sense of how much things have moved forward!

Legislation and licensing hurdles didn’t slow things down

With the rise in revenue and participation as well as more and more online casinos appearing, there was plenty of push back from local governments. Most notably in the US where several attempts were made to close off online gambling in America. Gambling ads were banned in the US in 2003 and broadcasters and media outlets had to toe the line and take a big hit in their revenue streams. There were some pretty hefty fines handed out to anyone breaching the new legislation.

Ready to jump in amid all the US distraction, the UK gambling market was starting to emerge in a big way. The UK Gambling Commission was established to regulate the industry in the UK in 2007.

By the end of 2010, the industry was expanding further into Europe with more casino fans opting to gamble online. Making payments to online casinos was becoming more accessible and more secure, allowing players to deposit and also withdraw their winnings easily.

Going mobile

Early into the 2010s, the advancements in mobile technology and the introduction of Apple products saw casinos make a move into mobile gaming. Software developers began to create mobile optimised games to work on a smaller screen. Casinos were also building or adapting their casinos to be fully responsive and available to players wishing to gamble on the go.

Bitcoin and beyond

As yet more casino brands arrived and yet more software developers appeared things were changing rapidly. Players were looking for more games, better technology and better rewards. By 2014, Bitcoins began to enter the online gambling arena, and with the development of cryptocurrency casinos, the market was opened up to yet more players from within many jurisdictions. The appeal of being able to pay and play anonymously was an attractive prospect for some gambling fans who may have previously struggled with access.

Gamification

Casinos are more sophisticated than ever before, and the slots market, in particular, has seen the introduction of some of the most realistic and impressive video slots. The games are more immersive and interactive with storylines that unfold as you play. But even that isn’t enough for the savvy casino goers out there.

Some casinos have incorporated an added level of entertainment into their design. With ‘gamified’ casinos, players can become part of the story, collecting rewards and completing missions as they play their favourite games. It’s a sure-fire way to keep a player hooked for the long haul. A necessity in an industry that has some of the most tempting sign up offers for new players, making jumping ship to a new brand an enticing prospect.

What’s next?

It’s an exciting time for casino fans. The competitive marketplace and exciting technological advances mean there is always something new on the horizon. This is one industry that will never stand still for long, and we are happy to be along for the ride!

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Online gambling can take many forms which is probably why it’s so insanely popular. There is literally something to suit all fans!

  • Poker games – such as Texas Hold’em, Carribean Stud Poker both cash and tournament games where players can go head to head with other poker players in poker rooms.
  • Table games – roulette, blackjack, roulette etc. These can come in multiple different varieties and formats with different limits and minimum bet sizes.
  • Live dealer – live casino games are streamed live from casino locations around the world and feature professional croupiers. You can join a game and play against other casino goers from the comfort of home and even while playing at a mobile casino.
  • Sports betting – allows players to predict the results of sports matches and place wagers on the outcome.
  • In-play betting – this can take place during a sports match or event and allows betting to take place up until its conclusion.
  • Horse racing – one of the biggest markets for gambling online is horse racing betting. You could argue it falls under the sports betting banner, but it’s such a massive portion of online gambling revenue it deserves its own shout out.
  • Bingo – bingo sites have become hugely popular with hundreds of websites dedicated to the game. Its simplicity and accessibility make it a popular choice, and it can often be played for jew a few pence.
  • Online slots – one of the most prominent features of online casinos and one that keeps on getting bigger. Software providers are developing more innovative and graphically impressive games spanning all themes and genres, even movies and tv shows get a look in!
There’s a lot more that casinos offer including video poker, novelty games, scratch cards, virtual sports but you get the idea!

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We’ve talked a lot about how easy it is to access your favourite casino game or to place a bet on the big sports game nowadays. That in itself has been the cause of many people being affected by problem gambling. It’s easy to place a bet or quickly play a few rounds on an online slot. Or even get involved in an exciting game on an online poker site. Getting swept up in the drama and anticipation of playing an exciting game of chance can encourage you to become more reckless with your money. Placing good bets after bad, piling in more and more cash to try and recoup your losses. All signs that gambling may have become a problem.

The best way to avoid this happening is not to play at all. However, by taking a few precautions and being aware of the pitfalls it is possible to gamble responsibly and safely. One of the ways you can do this is to set yourself a limit on what you will spend during your session. Stick to your guns and never be tempted to deposit more cash. Most reputable online gambling sites and bookmakers will help you set up limits on your account. It prevents you from depositing more money once you’ve hit your limit.

If you have any concerns about your online gaming habits or how long you spend playing online casino games, please seek help. Check out www.begambleaware.org and Gamblers Anonymous for some helpful advice and guidance.

Players must be over 18 to gamble online and also make sure that the venue you choose is safe and secure and licensed by your relevant gambling authority such as the UK Gambling Commission or Malta Gaming Authority.

Want to learn more?

If you’ve still got some burning questions about the world of online gambling or perhaps you want to know more about online casinos and how to access the best gambling bonuses, then why not check out some of our other guides? We’d also love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for further articles and content!

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