History of online gambling

Online gambling is nothing more than games of chance or skill for money via the Internet. When did it all start? The history of online gambling dates back to the 1990s, when the first online casinos were launched. Are you curious about the beginnings of this branch of entertainment? Read on.

A difficult start

As is usually the case, the first years of playing for money online are shrouded in the darkness of history. To this day, chroniclers still argue about who launched the first real online casino. What is known, however, is that in 1993 bookmakers introduced teletext sites displaying live sports odds and offered telephone betting services. Teletext and telephone betting were a foretaste of what was soon to revolutionise the entire entertainment sector.

The foundations of online gambling

Three important developments prepared the ground for the emergence of online gambling in the

1990s. The first was the creation of a 'free trade zone' by the small Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda in 1994, which effectively allowed US bookmakers (based in Antigua) to accept bets over the phone on horse racing and sports.

The second was the development of gambling software in 1994/1995 by the now well-known gambling software developer, Microgaming.

According to the researchers, the third milestone was the development of encrypted communication protocols by CryptoLogic in 1995, which enabled secure online money transactions. This was the final piece of the puzzle that allowed gambling to enter a whole new track.

The first online casinos

In 1995, several sites (e.g. Gaming Club) started offering online casino games

without betting real money. These sites were followed by bookmakers. According to some researchers, InterCasino, founded in 1996 and based in Antigua, became the first online casino to accept real money bets. In 1996, the first online poker room was launched, namely Planet Poker. Competition was emerging rapidly.

More Caribbean dependent territories, e.g. Turks and Caicos and the Netherlands Antilles, began to welcome more operators with open arms. For better legal protection, most online gambling companies decided to base their operations in small Caribbean or European jurisdictions (see Malta or Gibraltar). The reason, of course, was the extremely liberal regulations.

Revenues grew at a similar rate. It is widely believed that online gambling generated USD 2.2 billion in 2000, compared to only USD 300 million a few years earlier.

First casinos, first problems

For the most part, the expansion was spearheaded by new companies not associated with any land-based casinos. The latter, however, were not idle. In 1999, Lasseters Casino of Alice Springs, Australia, became the first land-based casino to pick up the gauntlet and launch its own online gaming site. The market giants followed suit: William Hill and Ladbrokes. Their sites appeared in late 1999 and early 2000.

The early years of online gambling were marked by controversy due to the lack of any regulation. Habitual gambling scams and money laundering were the order of the day. The regulators slept through the first few years of the dynamic growth of the whole sector, but they soon got into the game in earnest and setting up an online casino required meeting ever new requirements.

Online gambling is booming

By the beginning of the 21st century, the online gambling industry was pushing forward and more and more countries were passing laws to regulate and legalise online gambling. In the US, unfortunately, the industry hit a wall as the US government pushed through the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2026, which prevented banks from processing transactions for online gambling sites. Despite these setbacks, the industry continued to grow, and in 2010 was valued at many billions of dollars. Today, Poland too has its own gambling law.

One of the most important developments in the history of online gambling was the emergence of mobile gambling. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, more and more people started to gamble online using their mobile devices. Today, every self-respecting online casino has either an optimised version of its website or a dedicated mobile app (if you want to know more, explore the details of the major mobile casinos). This has led to the development of mobile-friendly gambling apps and sites, which has contributed to the further expansion of online gambling.

Regulation and future prospects

Recent years have seen increasing pressure from states and independent organisations to increase regulation of the online gambling industry. This is partly due to concerns about problem gambling and the potential harms associated with gambling. In response, many countries have implemented stricter online gambling regulations, including requiring online casinos to obtain a licence and implementing measures to prevent gambling addiction.

Overall, the history of online gambling has been one of rapid development and continuous evolution. From the early days of online casinos in the 1990s to today's mobile-friendly gambling apps, the industry has come a long way. Although it has encountered controversy and regulatory challenges along the way, it remains a popular form of entertainment for millions of people around the world.