In the modern world, the idea of life without the internet is an almost unthinkable prospect. There’s a whole generation of people that have never known a time when the web didn’t exist. Many of us have become practically reliant on online access as part of our everyday lives, and the internet has had a huge impact on so many things. The way we communicate, the way we shop, and the way businesses operate have all changed dramatically thanks to the World Wide Web.
The internet has had a significant effect on many industries, and few more so than gambling. From small beginnings, online gambling has become a business worth billions of dollars. There are hundreds of gambling sites providing all kinds of different products and services to customers all over the world. Anyone with an internet connection can easily play casino games, place wagers on sporting events, play poker, and much more.
When Did Online Gambling Begin?
It is difficult to say exactly when online gambling began, but it is commonly believed that it was effectively born in 1994. This is when the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda passed its Free Trade and Processing Act. Under the terms of this act, licenses could be granted to companies who wanted to provide gambling services over the internet. Since then, the online gambling industry has grown at a truly amazing pace.
On this page, you will find information on how the various forms of gambling have evolved online. We have also provided detailed histories of some of the major gambling sites and the technology and software companies that have played a big part in the development of this industry.
History of Major Gambling Sites
There are many gambling sites on the internet today. Some of these have been around since the very early days of online gambling and have established themselves as well-known names. Others have entered the market later on, but still built strong reputations. Over time there have also been a number of sites that have not gone the distance, and for one reason or another have ended up closing down.
Throughout the history of online gambling, there have been a few sites in particular that have made a big impact on the industry. The stories behind how these sites have evolved over time can be quite fascinating. We have written accounts of some of the biggest and best-known gambling sites, and you can find the history of these sites on the following pages.
Many gambling sites use third-party technology providers for some or all of their products. Some of these providers supply their software to many of the biggest operators, which is why you will often notice similarities at different sites. The innovation and creativity of these companies has been instrumental in the way online gambling has developed.
We have studied several of the most notable technology companies in the online gambling industry and written about their past and what they are doing today. You can read more about the history of the following companies.
The first form of gambling over the internet to really take off was online casinos. In the same year that Antigua and Barbuda passed its Free Trade and Processing act, 1994, a company called Microgaming was formed. This company claims to have been the very first to provide a fully functional real-money online casino, The Gaming Club. Other companies have made similar claims, and it is difficult to verify exactly who did come first.
InterCasino, owned by the company CryptoLogic, was certainly one of the early online casinos, and it is still in existence today. Regardless of exactly who came first, Microgaming and CryptoLogic were certainly notable companies in the early days of online casinos. They both played key roles in the development of the technology required to power the games and the financial systems needed to process customer transactions.
Those familiar with the online casinos today would probably be disappointed with what was on offer back in the 90s. The range of available games was fairly limited, and the software was nowhere near as functional as modern online casinos. Considering it was new technology, though, it was still impressive stuff. As more and more companies started to get involved, the number of casino sites grew, and over time they developed to become far more advanced.
The market became very competitive very quickly, with many operators trying to become the biggest and best. Big bonuses for new customers became commonplace, and many casinos introduced loyalty schemes for their regular customers. The overall standard of the software available was almost constantly improving, and additional features were frequently being added.
Progressive jackpots, themed slots, and multiplayer games were just a few of the things that really helped online casinos to grow in popularity. However, there were some people that were reluctant to play, fearing that the online games could be manipulated in some way and would not give fair results.
Live casino games are fairly commonplace online now, but they were a major development when they first appeared. Players could actually watch live video streams of dealers and croupiers in real time, and this proved to be incredibly popular. Today, many players much prefer to play the live games, rather than the graphic-based ones.
A more recent development is the addition of mobile compatible games at many sites, meaning you can play your favorite games from your smartphone or tablet. Again, this is something that has proved to be very popular and is a good example of how online casinos are continuing to advance. There is little doubt that we will see even more progress over the coming years.
History of Online Sports Betting
Online sports betting began shortly after the early online casinos. The first site was Intertops in 1996, and others soon followed. The placing of wagers on sporting events over the internet was very popular with gamblers all around the world, and the industry took off in a big way. A number of new companies were formed to enter the market, and most existing bookmakers opened up web-based operations to complement their existing businesses.
As with online casinos, things were very competitive. Betting sites also offered generous bonuses and free bets to new customers as a way to attract more bettors. A number of other promotions were introduced, too, as sites tried to stand out from their competitors. Things like enhanced odds and cash back offers became commonplace, and the range of different wagers that were available greatly increased, too.
In 2000, a new betting site called Betfair opened up. Unlike all the other betting sites at the time, Betfair itself did not take bets from customers, but instead allowed customers to place bets between themselves. Peer to peer betting was incredibly popular almost immediately, and remains so to this day. It became known as exchange betting, and several other companies subsequently launched similar sites, although Betfair dominated this particular market.
Live betting was introduced for the first time in 2002, allowing bettors to place wagers on a sporting event while it was taking place. This was another major development and also an instant success. The vast majority of betting sites went on to offer a live betting service, and these days you can bet on a massive range of sporting events while watching the action. Mobile betting is also available at most of the big sites, making it possible to place wagers using a phone, tablet, or other mobile device.
Placing wagers online is easy and convenient and offers many other advantages over more traditional betting. These traditional forms of betting haven’t disappeared completely, and probably never will, but using betting sites is certainly the preferred option for many.
History of Online Poker
On January 1st, 1998, a new site called Planet Poker became the first to offer online poker. The site soon started attracting players, despite frequent technical problems and issues caused by the speed and unreliability of dial-up internet. Planet Poker never fulfilled its potential as being the first poker site, and other operators came into the market and were much more successful. Interestingly, though, the rake levels set by this site are still the industry standard today.
Paradise Poker started out in the following year, and it was more advanced and more stable than Planet Poker. It experienced fast growth as a result. This site also offered Seven Card Stud and Omaha games in addition to Texas Hold’em. The following year, poker professional Dutch Boyd launched his new site, Poker Spot. This was the first site to offer online tournaments, but suffered numerous problems with processing customer payments and lasted only until 2001.
Two new poker sites that were to become giants in the industry opened up in 2001: PartyPoker and PokerStars. Paradise Poker was still the front-runner, but these other two sites quickly became serious players. PartyPoker began running tournaments that offered qualification to live events, and these proved to be particularly popular. Another site, UltimateBet, was also making a name for itself at the time.
2002 was a notable year for both PartyPoker and PokerStars. Televised poker was attracting larger audiences, perhaps due to the introduction of card cameras that showed the hole cards of players, and PartyPoker started advertising heavily on these shows. The advertising worked, and they became the largest poker site. PokerStars was not too far behind, and they improved their standings with the launch of the World Championship of Online Poker.
When Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2003, he not only took home prize money of around $2.5 million, he also arguably had the biggest ever impact on online poker. Moneymaker had won entry into the WSOP by playing in a $40 tournament at PokerStars. Suddenly everyone dreamed of winning big money, and the popularity of online poker increased dramatically. The following year, another site that was to become a major player opened: Full Tilt Poker.
Online poker was popular all over the world, but nowhere more than in the United States. The industry changed forever when, in 2006, legislation known as the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed by the American government. This created a great deal of confusion about the legality of online gambling in the US, and many poker sites (and other gambling sites) closed their doors to American customers.
In the last few years, the popularity of online poker has leveled out somewhat. There are still a lot of people playing, and a lot of sites where they can play. Many of these sites are now on networks, sharing a pool of players to increase liquidity. The overall standard of online poker software is higher than it has ever been, and continues to improve.