The History of Online Casinos: From the First Virtual Slot Machine to Modern-day Live Dealer Games

Practised for centuries, gambling is an activity that dates back to ancient cultures. In fact, archaeological evidence shows that even the earliest human societies partook in games that included bets and wagers, which weren’t always necessarily money oriented. 

Although the concept of gambling is quite old, gambling sites became a phenomenon in the mid-nineties after the invention of the internet. The advent revolutionised gambling, spreading it globally. The industry gained popularity and went from being viewed as an activity for the scandalous to an acceptable form of entertainment. 

Online gambling experienced explosive growth in a relatively short period. But how did it go from being a game of chance played for entertainment to the multi-billion dollar business industry we know today? That and more are discussed in this article about the history of online casinos.

The Emergence of Online Casinos 

Online gambling businesses started sprouting out rapidly, all thanks to the widespread use of the internet. One such developer, Microgaming, came into being and established one of the first-ever online casinos called the Gaming Club. 

Another company known to have existed during the time was CryptoLogic. Their contribution to the digital gambling space was InterCasino, created in 1996. Since both Microgaming and CryptoLogic have existed for so long, it is difficult to know who spearheaded the early developments. 

A significant event that paved the way for companies to enter the digital space was the Free Trade and Processing Act of 1994. This law granted licences to online gambling companies, helping regulate virtual casinos. 

The states of Antigua and Barbuda started issuing licences in 1994, followed by The Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Quebec two years later. Other jurisdictions were also quick to join the endeavour, and soon, the legality of online gambling went global. 

Note that there still isn’t a single law that applies worldwide. Rather, online casinos chose the location they wish to be licensed from by running their operations from that precise location. Since these online gambling sites highly depend on Random Number Generators, they needed an authority to regulate these machines. In 2003, the eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation Act (eCOGRA), an independent, UK-based company, was established, responsible for player protection, fair gaming, and operator conduct. 

Fast forward to 1997, the number of online gambling sites shot up to 200, accounting for a revenue of $1 billion by the end of the year. 

Arguably, slots were the most popular out of all the casino games offered at the time, including poker, blackjack and roulette games. Although uncertain, Microgaming was the first, or amongst the first ones, to release a video slot game where players could play with real cash. Until 2000, the number of slots released every year multiplied, consequently increasing the number of regular online casino fans. 

Modern Developments 

In the following years, the 2000s, to be particular, there was a tremendous increase in online casinos and games. Developers refined their designs and added exciting features like multipliers and bonus rounds to enhance user experience. Classics were being retrofitted into the modern gaming landscape. However, the advent of virtual reality somewhat sidelined the ancestors.

As technology advanced, countless beautifully designed online casino games soon appeared. Naturally, the number of online gamblers shot up. Not to mention, developers were doing a considerably good job transforming the online gambling space. One such development was the introduction of mobile gaming. 

The Growth of Mobile Gaming 

With most industries and online marketplaces geared towards mobile users, it was no surprise that mobile gaming took the industry by storm. In 2005, Playtech, a prominent developer, launched the first mobile-based casino shortly after smartphones became mainstream. Consequently, many casinos launched mobile-friendly sites and apps to make mobile gambling easy and accessible. Within the next few years, the iGaming industry flourished as the general gambling standards continued improving, and more online casinos emerged to cater to millions of users. 

As the iGaming industry developed, live dealer games also rose in popularity. Since punters could now gamble on the go, such games encouraged participation in real-time. The live games quickly attracted players, the immersive gaming experience being one of the many reasons. 

What Does the Future Hold? 

Evidently, the online gambling space is better now than ever. Apart from the numerous betting options and games, there are many advancements in terms of security, user experience and features. Most casinos offer multiple payment options, with smooth transactions and exciting bonuses appealing to both new and returning customers. The introduction of live casinos continues to encourage growth. 

Although the online gambling industry may seem at its peak, there’s reason to believe there is still room for development. The competition is fierce, with hundreds of online casinos and developers operating. As technology advances, these casino platforms will always have something new to offer.