A brief history of Online Casinos

  • Many people are amazed to discover that online casinos have been around for almost 20 years.
People are amazed to discover that online casinos have been around for almost 20 years.

In the beginning

The first opportunities for internet-based betting came along very shortly after the web become widely available for public use. However, most governments were slow to spot the commercial impact that it would have and were not ready to pass the required legislation to allow it – plus it was clear from the outset that web-based businesses could operate anywhere they liked and would therefore site themselves in tax havens anyway.

The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda were straight off the blocks in 1994, passing their Free Trade & Processing Act. This allowed licences to be granted to organisations applying to open online casinos.

During this year, industry leader Microgaming was founded, based in the Isle of Man – whilst brothers Andrew and Mark Rivkin in Canada started up CryptoLogic in their parents’ basement. They were attempting to set up an online payment processing system and the games were simply developed to assist with that project, though the Rivkins rapidly discovered they had potential and decided to develop slots and table games instead.

The birth of online casinos

In 1995 the world’s first online casino opened: Internet Casinos Inc operated from the Turks and Caicos Islands and offered 18 games plus access to the Indian National Lottery. 

Gaming Club Casino launched on 1996 and from then onwards new casinos appeared at a rate of knots, with Microgaming selling their own casinos and concentrating on payment processing systems as well as causing a huge stir with the launch of the very first online progressive jackpot game in 1998: Cash Splash was based on a land casino game and is still popular to this day.

Net Entertainment was also formed in 1996, with resources used from a large Swedish land casino outfit. They steadily grew, acquiring a NASDAQ listing in 2007 and establishing themselves as the 3rd biggest online gaming software outfit but with a notable tendency to produce higher quality games than their competitors.

By 1998 time, annual revenues across all casinos had reached $834 million and there were 700 casinos online by 1999, which was the year that Israel-based Playtech came onto the scene, growing rapidly to provide the only serious challenge to Microgaming and become the market leader in branded slots almost overnight.

With the dawn of the new millennium, however, came new challenges:

Safety and Security at online casinos

With many countries passing laws that prevented or restricted online gaming the industry was tightened up with the establishment of eCOGRA and Technical System Testing (TST) as the industry standard bodies for ensuring that all play is kept as safe and fair as possible. 

Around this time the UK authorities became wary of UK citizens playing on sites that were not regulated, or regulated to a standard that they felt was acceptable. This left them with a problem, as no UK operator could base themselves onshore due to punitive betting taxes making it economically unviable. It was therefore up to the UK to decide which of the tax havens that were being used had regulatory regimes that were at least as good as those in the UK, and it drew up what’s known as the Whitelist:

Whitelisted jurisdictions include all EEA countries, along with Tasmania, The Isle of Man, Alderney, Antigua and Barbuda and Gibraltar. This led to lots of big names in the UK opening up shop abroad – particularly in Gibraltar.  Online casinos now number in their thousands, with hundreds of reputable sites on offer for players. 
news image Emma Hall 12 Aug 2021 View more

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