History of Online Gambling

History of Online Gambling

Online gambling sites have come a long way since the early days in the 1990's, but how have they done it and who have the major players been in this evolution?

We look at the highlights of the first couple of decades of the rise of Internet Gambling.


The first online casino licenses were granted way back in 1994 by Antigua and Barbuda, a small island nation in the Caribbean. This was made possible after the government passed the Freed Trade and Processing Act, a step that would have seemed insignificant at the time but that now appears to be one with much vision for the future.

That same year, the now famous software developer Microgaming opened its doors. This company started out as just a small operation focusing specifically on Internet gambling. But from those early beginnings it expanded rapidly, and today is responsible for powering many of the leading casinos and gambling sites on the web.

One of the longest existing online casinos is InterCasino, which opened its doors way back in 1996. It is believed that a number of other caisnos were in operation in the two years prior to that, including The Gaming Club, which was powered by Microgaming and licensed and regulated out of the jurisdiction of Gibraltar.

Global Regulation

As online gambling grew in popularity, the Canadians were the first to understand that it needed a global licensing regime. They set up the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in 1996, which created laws to ensure that licensed operators upheld laws and regulations and maintained a commitment to security and responsible gaming.

As the Internet moved from the early days of dial-up and slot connections to cable, DSL and much quicker connection, the online gambling industry grew with it. By 1998, the entire worldwide Internet gambling industry took in $834 million for the year, and soon after it crossed the billion-dollar mark and has not looked back since.

Moving From Land to Net

Many of the most successful companies of the late 90s and early 2000s were those who made the progression from land-based technology, such as Intertops. This online sportsbook began taking telephone bets from customers in 1983, so it was quite simple for them to move their technology over to the Internet in 1996.

By 1998, many of the biggest names in online poker had begun to make their mark, including Party Poker and PokerStars. Party Gaming, the parent company of Party Poker, became one of the first gaming operators to go public when it was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2005.

Legal Battles

As the Internet has developed, some countries have struggled to keep up. The United States has been a key battleground for the future of the industry since federal legislators passed a bill that effectively banned online gambling within the 50 states. Things are slowly changing though, after a Department of Justice ruling enabled individual states (such as Nevada and New Jersey) to create their own legislation, and there are also potential federal reforms on the cards.

Europe has always been more supportive of online gambling, with the European Union ensuring that most of its member states remain compliant on issues of competition and freedom to use offshore gaming sites. The rest of the world is quickly catching on to the industry’s potential and excitement as well.

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