Online Casinos have been a part of peoples lives for so long that it’s almost impossible to imagine a time when you couldn’t just sit down in front of your computer and play exciting casino and poker games but they have in fact only been around since about 1996.
It all started back in 1994 when the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbucda passed a law called the "The free trade and processing Act" which for the first time allowed online casinos to be operated, and there are still a lot of online casinos based in Antigua and Barbuda today.
In the same year, 1994, 3 pivotal companies were established, Microgaming and Starnet Communications who were the first companies to make specific online gaming software. They were very closely followed by the two brothers Andrew and Mark Rivkin and their company Cryptologic. One of the early goals was to create software which could handle payments to online casinos in a safe and secure way both for the casino players and the casinos themselves.
Over the next few years their was an explosion in companies offering software and online gaming solutions, especially in Canada but it was still Microgaming and Cryptologic who were the innovators and leaders in this emerging market. The innovations of eCash and money management systems were all thanks to Cryptologic and their software. In 1996 Cryptologic branched out into online casino game software with its subsidiary WagerLogic.
It probably won’t come as any real surprise to discover that the oldest online casino still operating is InterCasino, for more information on Intercasino you can read our review of it.
Starnet Systems International started up a franchise scheme whereby Casino operators could use their patented online casino software in return for a cut of the casinos profits. Starnet used these profits to set up their own online casino, World Gaming Net.
It was early 1997 when Microgaming proudly unveiled the first ever progressive jackpot slots game called Cash Splash, at the time this caused quite a stir as for the first time players could win really big jackpots at online casinos in the same way as they could in for example Las Vegas.
The whole time online casinos were becoming more and more popular, in fact by the end of 1998 the industry was worth a staggering $835 million!
Many of the players enjoying online casinos at that time were from America and there have been repeated attempts over the years to ban online gambling, although curiously not that many to ban Las Vegas or Atlantic City! One of the first to try and stop online gambling was senator John Kyle from Arizona who failed to pass his bill "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act" through the senate, but he didn’t give up and over the next few years he continually tried to get online gambling and particularly online casinos banned in the USA, but in the meantime online casinos were becoming more and more popular, not only in America but the whole of the world.
Australia have only ever given out one license for an online casino and that was awarded to Lasseters Casinos, who were already an established Casino chain, in 2000.
Around this time, 2000, there were about 700 online casinos in operation and the dominant online casino software companies were Microgaming, Cryptologic, Playtech, and Boss Media, much as it is now in fact.
Also around this time Argentina gave out a few online gambling licenses followed by The British Channel islands of the Isle of Man and Gibraltar. Of these Gibraltar has gone on to be a popular home for online casinos and many well known online casinos are based there.
Since 2001 there have been many attempts by various countries to ban online gambling and this has been a major factor in the establishment of many alternative online payment systems such as Neteller, Moneybookers, Paysafe etc. Unfortunately the USA has at this present time virtually killed off online gambling in America via the passing of the law called UIGEA in 2006 which was tagged onto the homeland security bill at the eleventh hour. This makes it illegal for Credit Card companies and other online payment operators to handle payments from US citizens to online casinos which in effect means it is impossible for US citizens to enjoy online casinos. There are however plans in place to challenge this law and we all hope it can get overturned when some sanity returns to US politics!
In 2001 the UK passed the Gambling Bill which makes it far easier for online casinos to operate directly out of the UK plus paved the way for the construction of super casinos to rival Las Vegas in size and grandeur.
Every country which hosts online casinos keep a very close eye on the online casinos in their territory to ensure that they operate in a fair and ethical manner and do not attempt to defraud players.
We are now in 2007 and online casinos have never been more popular, even though the market has all but vanished in America there are exciting developments for online casinos as they are having to focus on non english speaking countries and consequently online casinos are now available in a variety of languages. The future is looking very bright for online casinos, they have never been as professional and well run as they are these days.