Online gambling has come a long way since Microgaming launched the first online casino in 1994. Today, online gambling is a billion-dollar industry that continues to dominate bigger markets despite legal restrictions in many parts of the world. In 2017, the online gambling and betting market earned $45.8 billion in revenues and it is set to reach over $94.4 billion by 2024, according to Zion Market Research’s report.
But where did it all started and how far has online gambling come as an industry?
The concept of online gambling started when Microgaming Software Systems Ltd., a privately held software development company based in the Isle of Man decided that it’s time to take traditional gambling online.
Back then, gambling was only available in physical casinos and betting shops that posed a limitation for gamblers who didn’t want to visit these establishments often. Between 1992 and 1993, Microgaming worked with Internet security company Cryptologic in developing software that would allow gambling online while keeping transactions safe and secure.
Although Microgaming already had the software for online gambling, it wasn’t until 1994 when the world came to know the first online casino. That same year, the Free Trade and Processing Act was passed in a small Caribbean island named Antigua and Barbuda. The law allowed both individuals and businesses to establish gambling facilities on the island and resulted in hundreds of companies setting up shop in the country over the next few years. In fact some of the most reliable Canadian online casinos may have started on the island and have now grown their operations worldwide.
InterCasino accepted its first real money wager in 1996 and has since paid out more than $3 billion in winnings. It was also in the same year that the Mohawk Territory Kahnawake Gaming Commission was created to regulate and license online casinos and poker rooms. From only 3 casinos operating in 1994, the number grew to 15 casinos by 1996, especially when WMS Gaming was established to offer games and slots to new online casinos. It is now the 3rd largest software developer for the online gambling industry after Microgaming and Playtech.
By 1998, the online gambling industry already enjoyed revenues of up to $834 million, according to Frost & Sullivan. This number grew even further with the establishment of Planet Poker, the first online poker room where gamblers first played the game Texas Hold’em, now one of the most popular poker games in the world.
Microgaming also launched Cash Splash, the first network progressive jackpot slot in the same year. Paradise Poker launched in 1999 and 700 more online casinos and betting sites followed suit in the same year.
With online gambling skyrocketing to fame in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, governments started to take notice. Online gambling took its first big blow in America when the US Congress enacted the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1999 that prohibited bookmakers from offering online gambling services to Americans.
In 2000, Australia enacted the Interactive Gambling Moratorium Act that made illegal for unlicensed casinos to operate within the country’s online territory. All the casinos that operated before the law was passed in Australia were also made illegal.
Despite the legal restrictions in many countries around the world, online casino operators have found ways to continue serving their growing clientele. One of the biggest milestones for the industry was the advent of mobile gambling that started in 2003 when the United Kingdom pioneered mobile sports betting.
By 2005, Microgaming collaborated with Spin3 to create mobile casino software. But things really took off for mobile gambling in 2007 when Apple released the iPhone. This new smartphone allowed owners to download apps through the App Store, which was launched in July 2008. Within a year, millions of iPhone owners have downloaded mobile gambling apps with Texas Hold’em being the most downloaded app on the App Store. Samsung joined the bandwagon when it released the Android Store now popularly known as Google Play. Here, Android device owners can download their favorite gambling apps.
There was a time when online casino operators stopped hoping that online gambling will still be legalized. But in 2013, Nevada became the first state in America to legalize the industry followed by New Jersey.
Last year, things took a turn for the better when a New Jersey Supreme Court overturned a law, which now allowed all US states to legalize sports betting. This year, more states are joining the bandwagon, which means that the future is indeed looking up for the online gambling industry.