Archeologists and historians have found evidence of man’s love affair with gambling dating back to a time before recorded history. Though a sizable portion of the population will always regard gambling as an immoral vice, people will always find ways to indulge their desires. Starting in the mid-90s, those desires became easier than ever to fulfill. The instant success of the commercial Internet brought online gambling home to millions of people worldwide. Thanks to advances in technology, you no longer had to get dressed up to play your favorite casino games.
Antigua and Baruda, a small Caribbean nation, made a huge impact on the origins of online gambling with the Free Trade and Processing Zone Act of 1994. This gave the country the ability to hand out licenses to entrepreneurs who wanted to start online casinos. Though the first online casinos would not emerge until nearly two years later, it set the stage for a revolution in gambling.
Who Was First?
It’s strangely difficult to pin down the first online casino. According to the University of North Carolina, it appeared in 1995, offering only 18 games. Other sources insist that the first ones appeared a year earlier in the wake of gambling software company Microgaming. Still others claim that 1996 was the year they all came out of the woodwork. Whatever the case may actually be, online casinos didn’t take off in a big way until 1997. By the end of that year, there were more than 200 online gambling sites. A year later, a Frost & Sullivan report confirmed that the online gambling industry had brought in more than $800 million in 1998 alone. The world of gambling was changing in a big way.
Not to be overlooked in the history of online gambling are the sports sites. The first company to take advantage of this wide open market was InterTops in 1996. Their success led to hundreds of imitators and innovators all around the world. Despite legal challenges in America and other countries, sports betting continues to be wildly successful in 2014. In 2005, Christiansen Capital Advisors estimated that online sports betting took in more than $4 billion in revenue for the year. That number has undoubtedly grown immensely in the years since.
The Poker Boom
In 2003, a man with the unlikely name of Chris Moneymaker managed to become the poster child for a new American dream. Winning the World Series of Poker after qualifying online, Moneymaker sent millions of people flocking to the Internet for their poker fix. Companies like Party Poker, PokerStars, and Full Tilt Poker dominated the scene for years until Black Friday. That was the date in 2011 when the U.S. government effectively banned online poker companies from catering to American customers. Online poker, per se, is still not illegal in the U.S., but few major sites offer their services to American players.
The Future of Online Gambling
Due to legal challenges, the future of online gambling remains hazy. In many countries, lawmakers have eagerly passed regulations allowing online casinos, sports betting, and poker to fill government coffers while providing the people with what they want. However, legislation in the U.S. remains murky. Until the ramifications of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act are fully understood and appropriately challenged by the courts, gaming companies will be hesitant to get involved. Meanwhile, online gambling will continue to thrive in other parts of the world where its legality has been established. Smart phones, better Internet speeds, bitcoin, and virtual reality technology could all play a part in revolutionizing online gambling in the years to come.