History of Online Gambling: How Did it Start? Poker, Casino, Sports & more

Gambling has a long and winding history. And if you have been contemplating joining a gambling platform, chances are you have always asked several questions. In this post, we walk you through the history of online gambling, including changes that have taken in an industry that is projected to be worth over $565 billion by the years 2022.

Online Gambling: How Did It All Start?

online gambling

While gambling in land-based casinos preceded online gambling, the success of the latter is attributed to the advent of the internet. The internet is arguably one of the most transformative tech inventions in the history of mankind. And there is no doubt about the fact that the gambling industry has since benefited immensely from progressive changes and amendments to internet laws.

The first online gambling platforms were launched in the 90s, paving way for an industry that has since grown by leaps and bounds. The first online gaming platforms for gamblers started in the Island of Antigua and Barbuda, thanks to the enactment of legislation popularly known as the Free Tradeand Processing Act. At the same time, a major game supplier for gambling platforms known as Microgaming (Founded in the Isle of Man) was gaining traction. Today, the software company is a giant with which to reckon. NetEnt, another game developer in Sweden was also launched, further pushing the online gambling industry forward with live dealer games, online casino jackpots, table games, card games, and other branded online casino games.

While the development of more gambling platforms, such as the issuance of gambling licenses in Canada around 1996 was laudable, there are factual inaccuracies relating to software providers we should discern. For example, there is confusion among historians regarding which gaming site between InterCasino and GamingClub came first. The truth is that with Microgaming realizing rapid development in the early 1990s, GamingClub, which is its flagship virtual gaming platform, was the first to be launched.  Over time, more gaming platforms got licenses, pushing the number of legal sites to at least 200 gambling sites by the year 1997. In a nutshell, the industry started realizing explosive growth with revenues exceeding $1 billion towards the new millennium (the year 2000)

By the year 2000, a major development in the sports betting industry took place with the launch of Betfair. The most notable aspect of online gambling around the same time is when the Betfair gaming platform introduced peer-to-peer betting. The wagering system was explosive, and particularly unique at a time when sports betting was not much-conceived by players in the gambling industry. In the year 2002, more innovative ways of placing wagers on sports were introduced. In particular, live sports betting (also known as In-Play gaming) stretched gaming technology to a new high. Over the years, live gaming has only become more popular, and with the introduction of cross-platform gaming capabilities, sports gamblers can only look forward to more exciting innovations in the future.

Sports Betting, Growth Momentum, and The First Sites.

While the first online gambling sites focused on offering casino and poker games, sports betting was equally gaining traction. Ladbrokes, William Hill, and later Betfair launched their gaming websites. During their first few years, the first two online sportsbooks gave huge bonuses as incentives to gamblers. However, a lot has changed over the years. For example, the amount of bonuses has significantly reduced, albeit, gamblers can still find attractive offers on some websites.

The Advent of Poker Gaming Sites, Failures and Opportunities

online poker

Sometime in the year 1998, the first poker gaming site was launched. It because known as Planet Poker. However, the site faced some challenges that halted its growth despite attracting huge numbers of gamblers from the onset. Given that at this time, gamblers still relied on dial-up services when placing wagers, technical challenges such as internet speed made it difficult to break even. However, the failure of Planet Poker became a springboard for more poker platforms.

In 1999, Paradise Poker which started in Costa Rica was launched and in a short time, it became a force with which to reckon in online poker gaming.  In the year 2001, PokerStars and PartyPoker were launched. The two sites witnessed rapid growth beyond expectations, becoming the best poker gaming sites in the world. The success of the two platforms was particularly attributed to their unique approach to online poker gaming, especially the inclusion of poker tournaments. Big winnings on the two platforms have equally inspired a generation of internet poker players since the year 2003.

The Unpopular UIGEA Legislation in the Development of Online Gambling

Like with every other innovation since the advent of the internet, online gambling was not spared from unpopular setbacks. Enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, abbreviated as UIGEA, became a major setback to online gambling. In the mid-1990s. the U.S lawmakers passed a congressional Act that dealt the gaming industry a huge blow. The Act’s major undoing to online gamblers was outlawing depositing or withdrawing winnings from a gambling site. Technically, it banned gambling of any nature in the United States.

With the enactment of UIGEA, confusion ensued. Internet poker players had no other option but to revert to land-based casinos. Most poker sites were forced to shut down. It is, however, noteworthy that the legislation did not outlaw online gambling. It meant most gambling sites had to shift base from the U.S.A to other countries. Some gambling sites like PokerStars, Absolute Poker, and others, however, still accepted gamblers from the U.S.A until a crackdown by the government in 2011 shut them down completely.

Final Thoughts On the History of Online Gambling

Since the advent of online gambling in the mid-1990s, there have been remarkable milestones. That is not to mention setbacks almost ended something that was to late employ millions of people around the world, both directly and indirectly. In 2015, Microgaming celebrated the biggest jackpot, and a year later, the company launched Virtual reality gaming powered by Oculus Rift technology. Something even more mind-boggling in the history of gambling is the launch of an AI (artificial intelligence) operated gambling platform known as Omnia Casino in 2018.