More people play casino games online than in brick-and-mortar locations and this is a trend that gains strength every year. Convenience, bonuses and the opportunity of trying games for free before making a deposit are some of the arguments in favor of moving online. Looking back at the dawn of Internet casinos, one would have to go back in time more than two decades to explore their roots. The differences between modern casinos and the first operators established in the 90s are huge and highlight the incredible evolution of these online entertainment hubs.
1996 marks the birth of online casinos
The Internet was still in its infant stages in the early 90s and the prospect of casinos opening shop online didn’t sound realistic. There were also plenty of legal hurdles to overcome by prospective operators, which had a deterring effect on those ready to establish such a business. The tiny nation of Antigua and Barbuda has the merit of creating the legal framework needed by casinos to apply for a license. It was the Free Trade and Processing Act milestone that led to the creation of InterCasino in 1996.
While this was not the first online casino per se, InterCasino & FruityKing.co.uk stood out from the crowd as a licensed operator where punters could make a real money deposit. It relied on a small community of enthusiastic players and constantly expanded to attract more people seeking the thrills of online gambling. Its success and encouraged others to follow suit and some chose to apply for European licenses, while others shook hands with the Mohawk Territory Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
Online casinos explode in the early 2000s
In the years that followed the creation of InterCasino, more software developers were established and the number of online casinos increased. Microgaming and NetEnt are some of the biggest suppliers of games to Internet casinos today and they also played a key role in the late 90s. In 2003 eCOGRA was founded to certify the games as fair, which provided punters the peace of mind needed to enjoy real money gaming.
Not only casinos, but poker rooms were also founded in the early 2000s, with companies such as Planet Poker being among the pioneers. Things were heading into the right direction and many expected a surge in the number of casinos and poker rooms. The 2006 UIGEA represented a turning point for Internet casinos, as they were denied access to US players. Some tried to find a way around prohibitive laws and chose Kahnawake Gaming Commission licenses, but overall the market shrunk significantly.
In took more than a decade for US regulators to make the first important steps towards reversing that prohibitive piece of legislation. Meanwhile, Internet casinos continued to thrive worldwide, with some of the biggest companies opting for UK and Malta licenses. The online gambling environment is constantly changing, but the biggest threat for Internet casinos is overregulation.