Gambling is a rather complex subject, and its origins are almost impossible to determine. At this point, gambling is believed to be older than the written word itself, adding to its overall intrigue. Still, when it comes to online gambling, the information is somewhat straightforward.
In this article, we talk about when did online gambling start, which milestones of online gambling history made it what it is today, and what information relating the history of online gambling we should remember –
What Is Online Gambling?
Online gambling definition comes in simple terms. Internet gambling or online gambling is any type of gambling happening online, i.e. on the internet. This includes casinos, virtual poker, and sports betting. Most markets open for online gambling require a licence to provide gambling services or advertise to residents of that market.
Online gambling is increasing in popularity almost daily, with players around the world enjoying it. Liechtenstein International Lottery was the first online gambling venue that opened to the general public, opened in October 1994.
1994 - Free Trade & Processing Act
In modern terms, the Free Trade & Processing Act is the first-ever online casino license. In fact, Antigua and Barbuda were the first to grant a license to online casinos to operate from their territory which was made possible by the Free Trade & Processing Act.
What the Internet gambling is today, it wasn't a few decades ago; a lot has changed in terms of licensing, player expectations and general rules of playing which is why the Free Trade & Processing Act was considered a real boom back then.
1994 - The First Online Gambling Venue by Liechtenstein International Lottery
As you can see, 1994 is marked as one of the most prominent years in the history of gambling.
A lot gambling milestones happened that year, with one of the most important ones being the launch of the first online gambling venue open to the public - the Liechtenstein International Lottery.
1994 - The First Fully Functional Gambling Software by Microgaming
The first online casino in the world went live in 1994, making online casino history and changing the face of the online gambling industry altogether. The name of the first online casino was The Gaming Club. Believe it or not, this casino is still in existence and operational, enjoying the status of one of the most reputable online casinos in the world.
Unsurprisingly, this casino was powered by Microgaming software, offering the provider's full game assemblage. The Gaming Club has undergone massive changes during the years, keeping up with the modern-player expectations; it has switched from its Viper download platform and is now accessible in instant play mode and via mobile.
1995 - The First Real Money Transactions over the Internet by CryptoLogic
The birth of real money online casinos goes back to 1995 when CryptoLogic came into play and made real money transactions possible for online casinos. A company specialising in real money online transactions, CryptoLogic revolutionised the way online money transactions work, making money processing fast and safe for the players.
Powering it, CryptoLogic helped InterCasino in becoming the first online casino to offer players the chance to bet real cash. The casino is still functioning to this day.
Due to the impact it's made on online gambling, CryptoLogic is often mentioned shoulder to shoulder with one of the biggest industry giants - Microgaming. Although in different niches, both are important names for the history of online gambling.
1996 - The Establishment of Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The online gambling industry was already booming in 1996, promising a lot of potential for expansion. Some jurisdictions recognised this potential as their own chance to prosper. With that said, Kahnawake Gaming Commission was formed in 1996, becoming a legal body to issue operating licenses to new online casinos.
The commission was formed with the idea of keeping the online gambling industry regulated and fair.
1996 - The First Real Money Wager Online by InterCasino
Online casino history and the online gambling industry overall cannot go without remembering the first online casino accepting real money wager.
In 1996, InterCasino accepted the first real money wager online through CryptoLogic, changing the face of transactions in online casinos right there and then.
InterCasino was launched in Antigua by William "Billy" Scott, a former Ohio bookmaker.
1996 - The First Online Sports Bet by Intertops
What would online gambling be without a little sports added to it, right? In 1996, sports bettors and bookmakers were legally connected via the Internet for the first time in the history of online gambling by the Austrian-based Intertops sportsbook.
On January 17, 1996, Jukka Honkavaara logged onto Intertops.com, betting $50 that Tottenham Hotspur would defeat Hereford United. With this bet, Mr Honkavaara made history as he was the first-ever person to place a sports bet online.
Oh, in case you were wondering - Tottenham Hotspur did defeat Hereford United, and by a wide margin, 5-1, to be precise!
1998 - The First Online Progressive Jackpot Slot - Cash Splash by Microgaming
Aren't progressive jackpot slots everyone's favourite? Well, if not everyone's, then most people, and – for a reason! They're fun, exciting, and they can potentially bring you a lot of cha-ching! Making its debut way back in 1998, CashSplash by Microgaming was the first-ever online progressive jackpot slot to be launched for online play, entering the history of online gambling.
Though it may seem strange, this online progressive jackpot slot is still as popular as ever! As it has evolved over time, it is now available in two editions – the original 3 reel 1 payline classic cherries, bars and 7's slot, and - a newer, more modern version featuring 5 reels, and 15 paylines.
CashSplash pays out often, averaging a progressive jackpot win approximately once in every two days. With its launch back in 1998, CashSplash by Microgaming made slot machine history.
Interested in learning more about online slots and how they work? Listen to our podcast "Here's how online slots work", where Simon Hammon, CPO at Relax Gaming, discusses player strategy, the mechanics behind slots, and so much more.
1998 - The First Online Poker Room - Planet Poker
It was January 1, 1998 when the first hand in online poker was dealt, and the iGaming community still remembers it (well, gambling veterans do at least).
The poker site name was Planet Poker, featuring their own Planet Poker software. As online poker is hugely popular to this day, it is safe to say that Planet Poker was the pioneer of online poker, entering online casino history
1999 - the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act
Online gambling in the US has, from the get-go, faced stringent regulations of both online and land-based gambling.
The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1999 was a 1999 bill proposed in the US Senate to ban the Internet gambling. This bill was passed by the Senate on November 19, 1999, but was never passed by the House.
In 2006, an updated version of this legislation was attached to the SAFE Port Act when it became law, which was a significant moment for the history of online gambling in the US.
1999 - Multiplayer Online Gambling Introduced
In terms of iGaming novelties, a lot happened in 1999. One of the super important things for the iGaming industry was the introduction of multiplayer gaming which allowed players to take part in various tournaments and compete against each other which was a huge milestone for online casino history.
The option of group chat was also introduced, encouraging players to talk to each other during play, creating a lifelike gambling atmosphere.
2002 - The First Ever Win of Over $1 Million in an Online Casino Jackpot
Although huge jackpots are somewhat a normalcy these days, back in the late 2000s they were not. It was in 2002 when the first-ever win of over $1 million struck an online casino jackpot, taking everyone by surprise! This majestic first-ever win of this magnitude happened at Captain Cooks Casino during a player's progressive slot game.
2003 - eCOGRA Founded
The year 2003 is one of the most critical years for the online gambling industry as this is when eCOGRA was founded, to this day known as one of the most reputable independent testing agencies in the world. The eCOGRA is short for eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance.
The eCOGRA is a leading independent testing agency, specialising in the certification of online gaming software and systems. It is internationally approved and well-respected.
Today, having the eCOGRA seal of approval on one's casino is a prestigious testament to one's quality.
2003 - First Live Dealer Casino by Playtech
When back in 2003 Playtech launched its live dealer platform, the online gambling community stood in awe. Now defunct, then specialist live platform developer CWC Gaming launched CasinoWebCam, directly streaming a live game from CWC's dealer studio based in San Jose, Costa Rica. From that point on, the face of online gambling changed for good.
2004 - The First Mobile Casino Software by Microgaming
The iGaming industry seems to have kept progressing year by year. Another huge thing happened for the online casino history and the iGaming industry in 2004 when the world's first true mobile casino software got developed and launched, to the excitement of all on-the-go players. With this launch, Microgaming has, once again, shown they mean business.
2005 - The Gambling Act Enacted in the UK
With its rapid development, online gambling called for applied laws and regulations that would ensure fair gameplay and keep the players protected.
The Gambling Act 2005 was introduced in 2005. It is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which primarily applies to England, then Scotland and Wales. The Act is designed to control all forms of gambling.
2006 - Unlawful the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act
Just when we thought everything was going upwards and smoothly for the online gambling industry, 2006 happened and changed the course of things.
On the territory of the United States, the Unlawful the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed, prohibiting "gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law."
What did that mean for the US players and casinos? That virtually all online casinos were banned from operating on US soil.
2006 - AskGamblers Launched
The online gambling market kept growing, needing more trustworthy affiliates to help navigate transparent and unbiased casino and game reviews, accenting the need for more real players' opinions and ratings.
In 2006, AskGamblers came into existence, promising objective, independent and true service to its users at all times. Technically, it first started operating in 2005, but grew into what we know it today in 2006.
Over the past decade and over, the platform has built a trusted online casino portal, dedicated to guiding players towards a safer and more pleasurable gambling experience while providing up-to-date and accurate information about online casinos worldwide.
AskGamblers has built their own Casino Complaint Service (AGCCS), offering players the opportunity to resolve their issues with a casino transparently and quickly. To this day, everything about AskGamblers has been transparent and progressive, protecting players from casino malpractice and fraud.
2014 - The First Casino to Accept Bitcoins - Vera & John
The age of cryptocurrency may seem fresh, but the truth is – it was back in 2014 when we had the first crypto payment in an online casino.
Vera&John stands as the first online casino that began taking crypto deposits from customers, automatically converting them to Euros. This Malta-registered site would make sure the converted payment was always paid into customers' accounts on the site. Bitcoin deposits could only be withdrawn in Bitcoin.
2016 - The First Virtual Reality Headset Casino Games by Microgaming
Once again, although unsurprisingly, Microgaming brought a breakthrough into the world of online gambling.
In 2016, the provider introduced Virtual Reality games via the Oculus Rift technology. This new technology enables players to access the casino games in VR, and, in doing so, make the next step towards the future of online gambling.
Online gambling history is nothing but fascinating, and we're here for every aspect of it. Going back to the early 1990s and witnessing it grow in leaps and bounds over time, there is no doubt great things are yet to come.