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The History of Online Gambling


Gambling has been around for a lot longer than you may expect - it’s reported to be older than the written word! The first evidence of gambling dates back to the paleolithic period, in Mesopotamia, where the earliest six-sided dice were found, dating back to around 3000 BC. 

Similarly, in China, people played lotto and domino games and bet on animal fights 1000 years BC and the first playing cards also appeared in China in the 9th century. In the 17th century, poker was massive and can be traced all the way back to 17th century Persia, where they played a game called As-Nas. 

There are arguments as to which website was the very first to market - but all answers point to either InterCasino or GamingClub, built by Microgaming. However, whichever was the first website, both played a key role in the development of the technology to power the casino games and financial systems we use today to keep customers happy and process transactions.

When the Free Trade and Processing act began in Antigua and Barbuda, this is when online websites began operation. The bill allowed the nation to grant licenses to businesses interested in starting online casinos - which really birthed the online industry and it has continued to grow at an amazing rate! 

By the end of 1996, there were 15 online casinos up and running and by the end of 1997 this number had grown to a whopping 200 casinos in operation. 

In 1995, a company called Cryptologic was launched, who specialised in monetary transactions on the internet. This created more opportunities for the online gaming industry, being able to use a real-money online gambling platform. They changed the way monetary transactions happened on the internet, making it more safe and a quick process for players.

Poker was introduced into the iGaming scene in 1998, with Planet Poker being the first website to offer online poker, though competitors entered the market really quickly due to the website being slow and with many bugs, and quickly surpassed the success of Planet Poker. 

Flash forward to 2000 which was when Betfair entered and really changed the market with the invention of peer-to-peer wagering. In 2002, live betting was introduced and was an instant success, allowing bettors to place wagers on sporting events whilst it was taking place. 

Although online gambling is currently frowned upon in the US, this actually wasn’t always the case. Online poker used to be massively popular and successful in the United States, until 2006, when Congressional lawmakers decided to pass the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, making it illegal to deposit and withdraw funds to and from an online gambling site. While this didn’t make it illegal to operate an online casino in the US, it certainly cast a black cloud over the industry when players couldn’t play with real money. 

In 2003, eCOGRA was formed and quickly became one of the most reputable testing agencies globally, ensuring that all casinos operated in a professional and legal manner and that all games were fair. This brought a lot of trust to the online casino industry.

Mobile casinos were introduced in 2013, but not to the standard we know today. Players would need to have installed Flash on their mobile, which ruled out iOS users. Since the HTML5 protocol was introduced, all mobile systems could run the casinos and games. Today, around 50% of all monetary transactions are placed via mobile. 

In 2016, Microgaming introduced their first Virtual Reality Games which meant that the players could use VR technology to fully immerse themselves in the casino experience, online.

Jumping ahead to the current day, although legal online poker is still a gray area in the United States, there is some hope for the future of online gaming within the US. A number of legislators have begun attempting to reinterpret the legal foundations that the UIGEA were originally based on, which led to several US states (New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada etc) to review allowing online poker again (potentially with additional regulations). A number of other states are also reported to be reviewing lifting restrictions surrounding online gambling (read more here); attracted by the revenue it may bring after the pandemic hit the casino industry hard. 

With the notable increases in online gambling over the last year or so, we expect that the USA will be making massive leaps in the coming months and years to make sure they don’t miss out on the potential revenue increase. 

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