Despite being less than three decades old, the online gambling industry has amassed a high level of success that many other sectors can only envy. In the past five years, the industry has hit over $40 billion in valuation on no fewer than three occasions. Despite its ban in many countries, the market is still one of the fastest growing in the world and is projected to hit the $100 billion mark by 2030.
According to a study by CasinoUSA on how online casinos are evolving, more significant strides are even expected in the next few years. But how did they get here? How did the online gambling industry achieve so much success so rapidly? Back then, only lotteries and a few poker games were available online, and now, players can experience immersive casino gameplay thanks to virtual and augmented reality.
Here, we follow the journey of online casinos back from the early dial-up days to the modern industry it is today.
Early Online Casino Gambling
The earliest instances of online gambling can be traced back to the late 90s. Since the invention of the internet, there have been rumors of developers working on ways to allow people to place bets through networks. However, the industry’s first major breakthrough came with the passing of the Free Trade & Processing Act by Antigua and Barbuda in 1994. With this act, it became possible for online casinos to gain licenses, and so the first gambling sites launched that year.
InterCasino, launched in 1996, is believed to be the first ever online casino. Based in Antigua and Barbuda, the casino was a breakthrough and offered 18 game options that included blackjack, roulette, baccarat, keno, bingo, Texas Hold’em, and some slot machines. The slots were classic slot games and adaptations of the slot machines found in real life casinos at the time.
Fourteen other online casinos were released that year and over 200 in the coming year. Also, while online casinos were gaining popularity, online poker card rooms were building a strong base too, and by the early 2000s, online poker was all anyone could talk about. This was further fueled by Moneymaker’s win at the 2003 World Poker Series as he became the first player with an entry from an online event to win the prestigious tournament.
The 2000s and the Rise of Slots
Moneymaker’s 2003 win, a rise in the number of online casino players, and a meteoric increase in available online casinos led many investors to flood the industry. More cutting-edge technology was introduced in the design of slots, and mobile casino games started to gain popularity.
Instead of the standard classic slots that were common, slots were now designed with more sophisticated gameplay, visual graphics, and better sound quality. By the mid-2000s, mobile games were already prevalent, and live dealer games that allowed players to play against real life croupiers started to pop up. By 2008, multiple sources were reporting that the industry had hit an amazing $21 billion in valuation.
The Online Gambling Industry Today
If there’s anything history has taught us, it would be the online gambling industry’s undeniable lust for innovation and change. Over the years, it’s always quick to adapt to market changes and makes decisions with the players at heart.
Online casino players have been yearning for a more immersive experience for years. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown were proof that players couldn’t solely rely on land-based casinos to fulfill their gaming needs. 2D and 3D have been doing amazing work in the industry, but there was a need for something more, something better.
VR gaming is a relatively new technology in the online gaming space, and while the idea might have been around for longer, only recently have players been able to enjoy it. With VR, players can go beyond their screens and actually feel the casino like they would in real life. This is as close to true realism as players can get. Some of the features include casino rooms where players can walk around in, immersive 3D game tables, more realistic sounds( 3D spatial aspect), in-game VR chats, and live interactions.
Virtual reality is proof of the industry’s growth, but it doesn’t just end there. Over time, we’ve seen online casinos introduce cryptocurrency into their systems. Allowing players an easy way to complete transactions in the iGaming space.
It’s truly amazing to see how much the industry has evolved since its inception and its willingness to accept change. From a number of sites with only a few games to hundreds of online casinos having thousands of games in their portfolios. Slots have also gone from basic reels and paylines to advanced gameplay and multiple features. The evolution is truly remarkable.
I am a UK tech blogger and have been in the industry for over 10 years now, running Mighty Gadget and its sister sites and contributing to other sites around the web. I am passionate about all tech, including mobile, wearables, and home automation. I am also a fitness fanatic, so I cover as much fitness tech as possible.