Ever wonder how your favorite online gambling sites came about? Do we have a story for you.
Gambling at large has been around since the Paleolithic period. That’s before written history when humans were running around in their birthday suits, hunting giant armadillos. Placing a good-natured wager now and again is basically the most human thing you can do- next to breathing and indulging in a few carnal delights. Dice, or rather the ancestors of what we now know of as dice, were invented sometime around 500 BC, which were made of small bones marked with numerical symbols.
The established gambling house was popularized during the first millennia BC, and playing cards made their debut in the 9th century AD. The first proper casino opened in Italy in 1638, and poker became a thing in the 17th century. While each contemporary country on earth settled into their respective rules and regulations regarding traditional gambling by the 19th century, and time had seemingly already provided the best ways to play your cash, the internet was born and the history of online gambling was written.
As the 90’s were still reeling from the heady high that the advent of the internet had brought them, more people were buying home computers, giving the common man near unfettered access to what this digital revolution offered. Which, in the early ’90s, wasn’t really all that much. Social media didn’t exist, messaging programs were still getting figured out and with dial-up services, anything you wanted to look at took hours to download- especially if it had pictures- video was nearly out of the question.
This year saw peace treaties being ratified in Bosnia and Herzegovina, women being ordained in the Church of England, Apartheid ending with Nelson Mandela’s famous vote, the Chunnel opening, OJ getting arrested, and a great many other milestones and portentous situations befall the world- but perhaps (as far as this article is concerned) none are quite as influential as the Free Trade & Processing Act passed by the sovereign state of Antigua and Barbuda.
This law allowed licenses to be granted to online casinos. Which meant for the first time in recorded history- people could legally gamble online. Around the same time, Isle of Man’s software company, Microgaming, in conjunction with CryptoLogic’s digital security systems, developed the first fully functional and secure gambling software. Creating the basis for legitimate online casinos and marking an important moment in the history of online gambling.
By 1996, online casinos and gambling sites had popped up all over the internet, this coupled with the fact that more modern homes were adopting personal computers with internet access meant that online gambling was gaining popularity. Online gambling sites blew up in 1997, increasing to 200 different websites from just 15 the year before. By 1998, revenues had exceeded $830 million dollars.
Despite proposed blockages in the United States, Americans embraced online gambling heartily and multiplayer systems were introduced in 1999. Showing without question that online gambling platforms were not just here to stay, but would continue the forward evolution of gambling that had been started centuries before.
Throughout the nascent years of Y2K, online gambling took to new heights and new forms. With platforms like Betfair offering dynamic sports betting and new ways to play through peer-to-peer wagers. Live sports betting and online poker garnered massive appeal with the creation of bet-on fantasy leagues and massive online poker tournaments that opened up live-action threads to the standard spectator. Generating huge revenue and a slew of interest in online gambling that hadn’t been seen before. In 2003, SportsLine had generated an estimated $11 million in revenue from fantasy sports betting. And online poker had exploded, pulling in a jaw-dropping $1.4 billion by 2004.
But the history of online gambling was far from finished, in 2008, the estimated worldwide online gambling revenue has engaged millions, grossing over $21 billion in revenue and becoming the world’s new favorite pastime.
Jump to 2018, and the estimated online gambling revenue worldwide was pegged at a solid $56.05 billion and set to keep growing. Despite the fact that online gambling sites still aren’t legal in every country- depending on what play you prefer.
2020 saw renewed vigor in online gambling interest and statistics, largely thanks to lockdown measures. As more people got stuck at home, more turned to online gambling sites in order to score a bit of entertainment during these worrying times. Which is something that gambling has provided throughout the ages. Except now, we’re not swapping various stones to take our minds off the fact that the oldest man in the world is 34- instead, we’re cashing out real money, in real-time, as colorful graphics, epic interactive systems, and those delightfully familiar sounds continue to light our screens and tickle our bank accounts.
From humble beginnings to the wild and wondrous world of the web, gambling isn’t going anywhere but online and up. And now you know the mischievous, fascinating, and altogether spectacular history of online gambling.