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Online Casinos: A History of Innovation and Immersion

February 22, 2024

Online casinos have existed almost as long as the Internet, well maybe not that far back, but certainly for as long as the World Wide Web has been useful and, more importantly, popular. Some millennials and GenZ can’t imagine a world without Siri or Alexa, and in some ways, the magic of a land-based casino has been superseded by convenience.

The first online casino to accept bangers (cash) was an online casino called InterCasino, based in the West Indies. Antigua, to be specific. InterCasino, way back in 1994, was nothing like the eye-catching and inviting online casino experience you get today. Prior to 1996, online was an enigma; most households didn’t get a PC until after the millennium. One UK survey says personal computers were only in 28% of homes by 2001.

The home computer and some very archaic gaming PCs were readily available twenty years earlier. The Atari 2600 was not the first home system with swappable game cartridges, but it was a bestseller. By 1980, the Atari 2600 was the most popular console by a wide margin, financed by Atari’s licensed version of Space Invaders from Taito. Anyone who is into the hit show Stranger Things will be familiar with the basic Space Invaders graphics, but the game was a revolution for the gaming industry at the time.

People wanted technology, and with innovation came a different way to entertain the masses. TV was not the only option, and young gamers drove the industry with a thirst for new and interesting content.

The UK National Lottery pioneered mobile gaming

When exploring a new state, country, or city, it isn’t a stretch to assume that a casino, or multiple casinos, could be located within a five-mile radius of a tourist’s hotel room. However, many of the people who pay visits to these modern and glamorous establishments, whether visitors or locals, probably do not realize how rich in history they are. Casinos, and their classic casino games, have travelled through ancient lands and even virtual frontiers to arrive where they are today. Here we take a look at the places and spaces casinos have inhabited, showcasing the ways in which these world-famous facilities have reinvented themselves down through the ages. INSERT IMAGE HERE >>>> https://ibb.co/Lz9Y64G >>>> Photo Casinos and their games have sure come a long way over the years Gaming in Ancient Times Before casinos even existed, people were playing betting-style games with friends for entertainment. The earliest known record of this comes from China in 2300 B.C. where playing cards are said to have been invented and in Egypt in 1500 B.C. where dice were first crafted. Although historians have not been able to narrow down the exact dates that this type of gaming came to be, there are some milestones we are 100% sure of – namely, the location and time period of the first official casino establishment. The World’s First Casino It wasn’t until 1638 that casino games were given a place to call home, with the opening of the world’s first casino, the Casino di Venezia or ‘Il Ridotto’ in Venice, Italy. Situated on the gorgeous expanse of the Grand Canale, it was originally built as a venue for theatre performances called the Theatre Saint Moses. During shows, patrons would be entertained by dancing and music, and during intermissions, they would head to separate wings of the facility to play casino games. This Renaissance period saw visitors dressing particularly elegantly, the women donning glitzy gowns and the men sharp black suits. This one-of-a-kind environment sparked a casino craze throughout Italy, whereby over a hundred more gaming establishments opened up all around the country. In fact, the very origins of the word ‘casino’ belong to Italy as well, with the inspiration coming from ‘casetta’ or the Italian word meaning ‘little house’. In 2021, this antiquated building is still standing in the exact same spot it was in the 17th century and boasts over 600 slot machines, as well as popular table games like Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat, and more. Upon one visit to the historic Il Ridotto, visitors will quickly see how unique the décor is when compared to the casinos of today. 19th Century European Establishments Following the birth of Venetian gaming houses, casinos became widespread in all of continental Europe, represented by extravagant buildings that resembled intricately decorated palaces. Some cities where this was evident included Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden in Germany, as well as Paris and Monte-Carlo. It was at this time that the ‘little wheel’ or Roulette became a predominant activity in the gaming houses of the French capital. On the other side of the pond, however, dusty old saloons located in states like Kansas and Louisiana were the setting of casino game entertainment. The Rise of Las Vegas Given its high-profile reputation around the world today, it’s hard to believe that there was a point in time when Las Vegas didn’t have much to offer visitors in terms of swanky casino establishments. The story of Sin City’s transformation begins all the way back in 1905 when railroad workers came to work on different projects and later the construction of the massive Hoover Dam. During their breaks, these laborers would play card games and bet. However, casino gaming was illegal in Nevada from 1910 to 1931, when, after a 21-year ban, it was relegalized. By the time this finally occurred, Vegas had already made a name for itself as a place where locals enjoyed gaming entertainment year-round. The modern Las Vegas that we know today didn’t come about until the mid-1940s with the success of one of the first casinos, El Rancho Vegas. From here, an entire host of other facilities opened up along Highway 91, or what is now commonly referred to as ‘The Strip’. People from all over the world began to visit Vegas, wondering what the casino boom was all about. Famous artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra also arrived, to entertain the new influx of local and international tourists. Fast forward a few decades to the late 80s and early 90s and Vegas started to earn its official title as the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ with shiny new mega hotels and massive casino resorts. Nowadays, Las Vegas receives over 40 million tourists a year. INSERT IMAGE HERE >>>> https://ibb.co/nMBMdXp >>>> TSG Image Bank All the thrills and spills of casino gaming are now available via smartphones and tablets Early 2000s Internet Boom and Casinos Today By now it’s clear to see how casino gaming has been an essential part of entertainment culture for hundreds of years. However, the internet boom of the early 2000s caused the entire industry to become even more revolutionized. In perhaps the biggest milestone imaginable, online gaming platforms have opened doors for casino businesses to have huge virtual presences. If a person wants to visit a casino in 2021, all it takes is a reliable internet connection and the device of their choice to make it happen. The internet has also enabled online casino platforms to provide a more expansive list of gaming titles than traditional establishments are able to, since they are limited in terms of physical space. For example, casino sites of today often boast dozens of different themed-slot games. Players can search these virtual lobbies via filters on their desktop computer, laptop, or mobile phone in order to find the best casino game to suit their gaming preferences. Additionally, classic table games like Blackjack and Roulette feature original gameplay thanks to the Live Casino versions which are available. The Live Casino experience transports players into a real-life casino studio with dealers speaking to players in real-time. In a Live Roulette session, for instance, croupiers spin the wheel, respond to betting requests, and interact with players like they would in real life. With new waves of technology shaking up the industry all the time, these casino services are poised to become more and more advanced as time moves on.

Interestingly, it was here in 2003 that the UK National Lottery licensed the first mobile gaming software. While apps, in general, were not popular, and people wanted to buy physical tickets from corner shops, the UK was a mobile gaming pioneer.

Online gaming wasn’t commonplace entertainment until mobile gaming became a thing in and around 2005, not really making an impact until the advent of smartphones. The release of the iPhone 2G, commonly called the iPhone 1, and its Android partner, the HTC Touch in 2007, propelled mobile gaming from the few to the many. 

Online casino a timeline

1994 – Creation of Microgaming

While gameplay was popular in land-based casinos, the growth of the online industry was needed. A company based in the Isle of Man called Microgaming was the first company to receive licenses to create and distribute software for online casinos. 

1994 – InterCasino Launches

InterCasino was the first online casino to bank real money and officially marked the start of online casino gaming (although InterCasino didn’t receive a penny until 1996). The same year, the free trade gambling law in Antigua and Barbuda allowed online casinos to base their internet operations in the Caribbean nations. 

1995 – CryptoLogic add secure financial transaction

Microgaming and CryptoLogic, an online security software company, team up to develop methods to make it possible for players to enjoy secure financial transactions online. In the same year, Microgaming launched roulette, blackjack, video poker, and craps and developed player management tools and tracking systems to ensure the smooth running of the new ventures.

1996 – InterCasino takes cash

The first real money wager placed online at InterCasino was launched in Antigua, with William “Billy” Scott heading up the online casino and taking the credit for the history made.

1998 – Online Poker Debut

In early 1998, Planet Poker introduced Texas Hold’em to the World Wide Web, celebrating the dawn of internet poker. Later, in 1998, Cash Splash, the first progressive jackpot slot, was launched by Microgaming.

1999 – Boss Media is the Boss

Boss Media released its multi-player gaming development platform in 1999. No longer must betters play against the house. Virtual players can sit in a group around a virtual table to play casino games. 1999 saw the gaming software giant Playtech enter the market. The milestones continued in the internet casino world, with as many as 700 official sites operating online by the end of 1999.

2000 – No Bugs Here

The Millenium bug was a no-show, and there are more options to gain gaming licenses in host countries. Gibraltar and the Isle of Man (UK territories) offered licenses for online gaming sites, while Cryptologic is listed on NASDAQ. Under CRYP, Cryptologic leads the way for other stock market listings, proving that online gaming and casinos are legitimate businesses.

2001 – Progressive Jackpots Progress with Online Popularity

In 2001, a progressive jackpot of $414,119 was offered and won at The Sands of the Caribbean online casino. However, it was not long (2002) before Microgaming’s Major Millions paid a $1.5 million jackpot at Captain Cooks Casino.

2003 – Regulations take hold

The independent standards authority, the non-profit organization eCommerce and Online Gambling Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA) is introduced to the industry. Its goal is to fill in for the lack of a regulatory body at that time. It was also in 2003 when Playtech developed live gaming. From now on, gamblers may use interactive video streaming and face live dealers at the online casino.

2005 – Mobile Gaming is On

Microgaming, in partnership with Spin3, provides mobile casino games. Mobile gaming shows potential as Microgaming is the first in the mobile gaming industry to leap forward and pave the road for the future. Also in 2005, online casino businesses shifted toward England by trading on the London Stock Exchange, with PartyGaming entering the FTSE 100.

From 2005 onward, the scene has been well and truly set for today’s online casino industry. Scroll forward to 2023 – the Mega Moolah jackpot prize surpassed 929 million, and jackpot winners worldwide reached over 18.75 million. 

While this is not a complete history or timeline, we think you can safely say our potted history of online casinos and online gaming gives you a taste of the past.