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A Short History of Online Gambling and Games

Those curious about the history of online gambling should note that players use the Internet for more than the games themselves. This medium has changed how people live by providing instant access to vital info on casinos, games, and gambling insight in general (which you can see for yourself at

The internet gambling industry stands today as one of the most innovative sectors when it comes to casino gaming. Despite online gambling’s history being somewhat rocky, this sector has managed to prosper over the past decade. Experts anticipate that this entertainment industry segment will continue its growth into and well past 2022.

But how did we get to this point? Let’s dial back the clock and take a look at the history of gambling on the Internet.

The History of Online Gambling: Early Beginnings

In the mid-’90s, the first online gambling sites went live but were far from the best platforms today. As a consequence of the Free Trade and Processing Act, the first online gambling websites to open were in Antigua and Barbuda. This bill allowed the tiny Caribbean nation to issue licenses to businesses that wanted to start online casinos and essentially created a new industry.

At the time, Microgaming was also a prominent software provider in the industry. This company is a pioneer in online gambling and has been referred to as a leader in the industry. Microgaming continues to be a trusted software provider for the online gaming industry. Its software supports all kinds of online gaming sites, from poker rooms to casinos (including N1 Casino, one of the most reputable online iGaming establishments).

Global Expansion

In 1996, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission saw the light of day, representing another significant development in the history and evolution of online gambling. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was founded by a Mohawk Indian tribe located in Canada with the purpose of issuing gaming licenses.

This Commission was established around the same time as the first online gambling websites. However, it is still up for debate which site came first since there are many inaccuracies in the history of online gambling. Some sources claim InterCasino was the first to offer virtual gambling, but others say Microgaming. One thing is sure: GamingClub (built by Microgaming) opened in late 1995.

The online gambling industry experienced tremendous growth soon after its birth, and 15 online gambling sites were operating as early as 1996. The industry had also exploded by 1997, with more than 200 online gambling sites, poker sites, and sportsbooks worldwide, generating an annual revenue of $1 billion.

The Rise of Sports Betting

Online sportsbooks were the natural progression of virtual casinos and poker websites. InterTops was the first platform to allow fans to bet on their favorite teams. The platforms’ initial success was quickly followed by rapid expansion. Within two years, some of the top bookmakers in the world, such as William Hill and Ladbrokes, had their own online gambling websites.

When observing the history of online gambling, we see how online casinos of old operated compared to modern ones. For one, these websites used to offer massive bonuses to online gamblers, including cashback offers. These deals have decreased as the market matured, but the modern online gambling environment is still a mecca for bonuses (provided you know where and how to claim them).

Interestingly, after Betfair entered the market in 2000, another exciting trend emerged in online sports betting. Peer-to-peer betting was a revolutionary innovation in online gambling and a system almost unique in the industry. It allowed players to place bets among themselves, while the site received a commission for each wager.

In-play betting on sports brought another boom to the online market two years after Betfair’s foundation. Live sports betting is pushing the boundaries of internet technology and has been a massively popular option for sports wagering, thanks to its compatibility with mobile and desktop devices.

Online Poker

If you dig deeper into the history of online gambling, you’ll notice that Planet Poker is widely considered to be the first online casino to offer poker. This platform was founded in 1998 and quickly attracted a lot of players, including Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, winner of the WSOP bracelet.

Initially, the site suffered from technical issues and other glitches. Many people still used dial-up internet services back in those days, which created numerous speed and downloading problems.

The failure of Planet Poker resulted in the rise of new poker sites like Party Poker, Paradise Poker, and, ultimately, PokerStars. Paradise Poker was founded in 1999 with a base in Costa Rica and quickly rose to be the most significant player on the market. The platform attracted thousands of players daily thanks to its more advanced platform than Planet Poker.

Two years after Paradise Poker’s 2001 founding, Party Poker and PokerStars burst onto the scene. When looking into the history of online gambling, you’ll come across countless accounts stating that these sites quickly rose to the top of the internet gambling landscape. Thanks to its online satellite tournaments, PokerStars led the way in terms of the global poker boom.

After winning a $40 satellite via PokerStars, Chris Moneymaker was famously eligible for the $10,000 WSOP Main Event. The amateur player won the 2003 WSOP Main Event for over $2 million, inspiring an entire generation of online poker enthusiasts.

The History of Online Gambling in America

European settlers introduced gambling to the New World. In the old days, blackjack and mechanical slot machines were popular in both land-based casinos and home games.

Today, cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City are synonymous with gambling. Technology development has made gambling more accessible than ever since people from all over the world can access online casinos.

The Notorious UIGEA

Online poker, in particular, was top-rated in the United States. However, Congressional lawmakers decided in 1996 to take the rug out from underneath the players’ feet. Despite the industry’s popularity, the United States passed the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA), making it illegal to withdraw or deposit funds to an online gambling site.

This decision caused a lot of confusion about the legality and illegality of internet poker and online gambling in the US. Consequently, numerous online gambling and poker sites had to close or prohibit access to US players, marking a one-of-a-kind event in the history of online gambling.

However, what is really remarkable about the UIGEA was the fact that it did not make online gambling illegal. Instead, it attacked payment processing companies, making it illegal to accept payments for gambling activities for any person residing in the US.

This move created a lot of confusion, and many online gambling sites saw the new situation as a gray area. Numerous major websites decided to cease doing business with US customers, resulting in massive losses to their revenue.

Black Friday

On the other hand, numerous sites tried to be patient and continued to accept US players. Examples of these sites included Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars. Unfortunately, the US government seized these websites in 2011 and shut down all three of them (and others), prohibiting access to anyone who was a resident in the US. In the online poker community, this event was known as “Black Friday.”

When looking into the history of online gambling, legalized online poker remains a grey area in the US. Nevertheless, there are traces of positive developments for the industry’s future.

Numerous legislators are attempting to reinterpret the legal foundations on which the UIGEA was based. Consequently, several US states, including New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, allow online poker again, albeit with additional regulations. Other states are similarly considering allowing online poker since they are drawn to the potential revenue it could bring to their state coffers.

How & Where Popular Gambling games Originated

Understanding the complex history of gambling is fascinating, including some interesting facts about the most well-known casino games. Examples of these games include:

  • Playing cards

  • Blackjack

  • Roulette (one of the most accessible and popular games in the history of online gambling)

Playing cards date back to China in the 9th century. Persians and Indians adopted playing cards later.

On the other hand, there’s also blackjack. Although this globally popular game is most commonly associated with the American version of the popular “twenty-one” game, its roots date back to the 1820s in France.

Lastly, in 1721 in Italy, the earliest recorded version of roulette was played. Regardless, the most well-known version of roulette was invented in Paris around the time of the French Revolution.

The Future That is Online Poker

Online gambling – mainly online poker – has seen both ups and downs, but there is hope for the future. Europe already recognizes internet gambling as a right of all legal adults, and it appears that the US is beginning to do the same. The top online gambling sites have been lobbying with US politicians, and many predict a new boom in the virtual gambling industry in the future. In any case, the history of online gambling is vast and turbulent, with indications that it will continue to be the same.

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