How Online Gambling Has Evolved
Although online gambling sites are now seemingly everywhere, many people don't stop to consider how the history of these sites and the industry as a whole has led to today's situation. Like the internet itself, online casinos really began to take off in t
The internet has made online gambling accessible to people around the world, even in remote areas where there is no physical casino for many miles around. However, before casino games could be offered online, developers needed to actually produce them and license them for use by the casinos.
One of the first developers was Microgaming, which was founded in 1994 and remains one of the biggest suppliers even today. Many online casinos use their software which features over 600 titles at the latest count, although this figure is constantly growing. Being there at the start has given Microgaming a great advantage, and they have grown in line with the whole industry.
One thing that is still hotly debated is exactly what was the first online casino. It's a common belief that InterCasino or 888.com were the original sites, but both of these launched in the mid-1990s, which is after the rules and regulations for governing the industry had been developed. It's more likely that Gaming Club, launched by Microgaming, is the original one, and this casino is still running out of Gibraltar today.
Gibraltar is one of the main licensing authorities for modern online casinos, and another one, established in 1996 is the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. This operates out of the Mohawk Territory in Canada and was one of the first to accept that online gambling was an unstoppable force, which could generate a lot of revenue if handled correctly. Kahnawake now issues licenses to online casinos round the world.
The online gambling industry grew rapidly, with an estimated $843 million in sales as early as 1998. One problem that prevented it from growing even more quickly was the old 'dial up' technology which sent information down existing phone lines, slowing connections and causing games to run unevenly. Once broadband became more established, people were more willing to play and the number of casinos, range of games offered and quality of those games increased substantially.
Many of the biggest names in todays online gambling business are companies that began offering betting services well before the internet was developed, and simply moved online when they saw the potential. Intertops is among the most popular sites, providing their customers with around 4000 sports betting opportunities a day in 180 countries. Although Intertops were only launched in 1983, they originally provided phone betting only, but went online in 1996 with great success.
Due to the complexity of Poker, and the need to have lots of players all connected to each other, online Poker sites proved a little more difficult to establish, and dial up connections were just not sufficient. The first site was called Planet Poker, and they launched at the beginning of 1998, but they never really took off with the public and are no longer around.
Rooms that started out early on, and have succeeded include Party Poker, Paradise Poker and the all-conquering PokerStars. It was Party Poker that became the biggest at first, even having its parent company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2005
It's not all been plain sailing however, with some serious legal issues hindering the free access of online gambling sites in many countries. The biggest challenge came in 2005, when the US government tried to ban online casinos based outside of the country, particularly those in Antigua, from providing their services to anyone in the USA. A court ruled against the US, but the damage was done, and many people are still unsure if they can legally gamble online. Even the sites themselves didn't want the FBI knocking on their doors, and withdrew from the American market, although no charges of supplying gambling services to US citizens have ever been brought. Today, it is becoming increasing accepted that online gambling is here to stay and instead of trying to ban it, governments should instead use the revenue to help economic recovery.
In Europe, the EU have approved the issuing of online gambling licenses by countries within the Union, including territories that only have loose ties, such as the Isle of Man and Gibraltar. South Africa has also recently passed legislation allowing online gambling, although Russia banned it in 2010.
With more and more companies becoming listed on stock exchanges around the world, the industry is growing up and getting well established.
Countries that have never before permitted any type of gambling are now accepting online casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks. The internet has also forced land based casinos to improve their facilities and offerings, as the competition has grown so much that they could see people abandoning their casinos for the comfort of playing online.