Today when online gambling operators are widespread and provide the most diverse gaming services, it is difficult to remember their humble beginnings. The history of online casinos goes back more than two decades, with the first operators opening shop in the mid-90s. A few visionary entrepreneurs saw the immense potential of Internet gambling and took a leap of faith to open the first online casinos. The tiny nation of Antigua and Barbuda was the first to regulate online gambling, back in 1994 when Internet casinos were nonexistent. The passing of the Free Trade and Processing Act represented an important milestone, as it provided prospective casino owners with a clear path to licensing their business. Two years later, in 1996, InterCasino opened its doors to the broad audience, as the first ever online casino. On the same year it allowed players to make a deposit and bet real money on casino games.
Online casinos flourish in the late 90s
InterCasino is still operational more than two decades after being found it, which is an incredible achievement for this business. In the late 90s, the number of new online casinos exploded and new software developers were created to address the growing need for quality games. Some of them applied for a license from the Mohawk Territory Kahnawake Gaming Commission, while others sought licenses from European regulators. Microgaming and NetEnt stood out from the crowd with innovative games and today, they have some of the most comprehensive portfolios of casino games.
Between 1997 and 1999, the number of online casinos grew exponentially and they were joined by bookmakers and poker rooms. Planet Poker was among the first to add Texas Hold’em to its lineup of games and many other operators followed suit in the next couple of years. For the first time players were able to compete against their peers in multiplayer, circumventing the random number generator. At the same time, eCOGRA was founded in 2003 to certify the fairness of the algorithms used by the casino.
Online gambling recovers after UIGEA
2006 was a dark year for the Internet gambling industry and especially the poker rooms catering to US players. The sudden decision to ban all forms of online gambling in the US took its toll on Internet casinos, poker rooms and bookmakers. Some operators decided to exit the United States market altogether, while others chose to apply for a license from the Canadian Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Some poker rooms went out of business while others banded together to consolidate their ventures.
Slowly, but surely, the online gambling industry recovered and important milestones were set in the next decade. Progressive jackpot slots gained a lot of traction and records were set and broken by the most popular and best paying games developed by Microgaming and NetEnt. Since 2014, it is possible to deposit and bet in Bitcoin at many online casinos, as the popularity of crypto currencies has surged.