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Evolution of Online Gambling
Online gambling sites are at the cutting edge of Internet technology, but even they had to start somewhere. So where did it all begin, and how did online gambling come to be such a popular form of entertainment?
Online Gambling’s Birth
Antigua and Barbuda, a small island nation in the Caribbean, was the first government to legalize online gambling with the Freed Trade and Processing Act in 1994. As such, it became the host for the industry pioneers.
In the same year, Microgaming established itself as the world’s first software provider dedicated solely to online gambling. As you probably already know, the company is still in business as one of the two leading developers today (alongside Playtech), demonstrating that it pays to get in first.
Debate still rages over who built the first casino, with InterCasino often sites as the first. However, InterCasino was only established in 1996, which seem quite late for an industry that had already been in legal existence for two years. Another theory suggests that the first site to be up and running was Gaming Club, hosted by Microgaming with a Gibraltar license.
Globalization of Online Gambling
As online gambling started to take off, Canada’s created the first regulatory body to ensure that things were properly licensed and regulated. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission, situated in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, understood that this industry was about to boom and that the regulatory environment would need to move along with it.
Those of us who are old enough to remember dial-up Internet will be aware of how slow gaming must have been back in the early days. But as the World Wide Web became faster and gambling sites started to catch on to the potential, the industry began to boom. By 1998, the global Internet gambling industry brought in $834.4 million, and it was only going to grow exponentially from there.
Transferring to Online
Many of the successful early online gambling sites were run by veterans of the land-based industry who simply seized the opportunity. For example, Intertops, an online sportsbook in operation since 1996, actually began taking bets via telephone in 1983. They are still running today, with more than 4000 wagering options a day to customers in 180 countries.
The biggest poker sites came along a little later as they did not have as much of the infrastructure in place. Many of these names, like Planet Poker and Paradise Poker, are no longer around. Others, like PartyPoker and PokerStars, continued on their path and became some of the most popular players in the business.
The US moved to ban cross-border gambling in 2006, blocking companies from offering their services to its citizens by blocking transfers of funds. Many sites still found loopholes to offer egaming to Americans, but all this came to a head a couple of years ago with the events of Black Friday, when some of the major online poker rooms were charged under violations of federal laws. Now, things are slowly starting to change, with individual states such as Nevada and New Jersey legalizing various forms of Internet gambling, and federal legislation on the table.
The European Union has been more progressive in its approach to online gambling laws, creating a series of reforms that have ensured most of its member states take a very open approach to the activity. These rules extend to countries under its jurisdiction, such as Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, which is why they are such strong based for gaming licensing and regulation.
As the online gambling industry continues to grow, its reach has extended to countries that would never have been in the thought of casino operators way back in the early days of the 1990s. The big winners in these countries have been the consumers, who get to choose between competing products to decide on the online casino, sportsbook or poker room that suits them.