History of Online Gambling: Beginnings to Future Prospects

History of Online Gambling: Beginnings to Future Prospects

Online gambling has become a favourite pastime across the globe. Experts reckon it's the quickest-growing form of leisure activity out there. Just look at the numbers – between 2007 and 2018, global game revenue shot up from $35 billion to a whopping $137.9 billion.

But there's more to the story than just figures. The evolution of online casinos is a captivating trek through time. We take a delve into the history of online casinos, tracing their origins and looking at what the future might hold.

Internet gambling – The beginning

The birth of online casino platforms wasn't solely due to the internet. It was actually the Free Trade and Processing Act (FTPA) that got things rolling in 1994, passed by the small Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

The government worked with the World Trade Organisation and other trade bodies to establish itself as a legit jurisdiction for online casino gambling. Essentially, this act made it possible for online casinos to get licenses, even though it lacked substantial regulation.

As a result, a slew of online casinos started setting up shop in Antigua and Barbuda.

Another key moment in the rise of internet betting was when Microgaming developed gaming software in 1994. This led to the launch of “The Gaming Club”, the very first online casino.

👉 Microgaming thus became a trailblazer in online casino games and software, moving beyond just taking phone bets on horse racing and sports.

In 1995, CryptoLogic took things further by developing encrypted communication protocols, enabling secure online financial transactions. These are just a few milestones in the fascinating history of Internet gambling.

Year Notable Development
1995 Casinos like Gaming Club began offering games online without wagering real money. Likewise, Sportsbook began posting odds online.
1996 InterCasino became the first to accept real money wagers. By the end of 1996, 15 online websites got bets.
1997-2002 The number of sites that accepted wagers increased to 200 in 1997, 650 in 1999, and 1,800 in 2002. The revenue generated was $2.2 billion in 2000, compared to $300 million some years before.
1998 Planetpoker.com, the first online poker room, went online.
1999 Lasseters in Alice Springs became the first land-based casino to offer online betting. Then, William Hill and Ladbrokes followed in 1999/2000.
2001 Sports betting accounted for half of internet gambling revenue.
2003 The World Series of Poker became televised in the United States. The revenue totalled $356 million, increasing to $2.6 billion in 2006.
2005 Online bingo was introduced to attract more females into the industry.

Internet gambling: Post-2005

Back in 2006, the online betting world was bustling with over 2,500 websites run by 465 companies.

This included 1,083 online casinos, 592 sports and racebooks, and 224 online bingo sites. Not to mention, there were 532 poker rooms, 30 betting exchanges, 49 skill game sites, 17 backgammon sites, and 25 lottery sites.

These websites were spread out across 42 jurisdictions, with notable spots like Antigua and Barbuda, Gibraltar, and the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec. Plus, in 2005, the revenue clocked in at about $12 billion.

Fast forward to today, and there are thousands of betting sites out there. The UK Gambling Commission alone has issued 3,368 licenses to 2,439 gambling companies.

In the United States, the online gambling industry reached a massive 9.5 billion dollars in 2021. What's more, the global user base is expected to grow from 0.2% in 1999 to a significant 2.9% by 2027.

The popularity of real money internet gambling

An estimated 1.6 billion people around the globe engage in gambling, which accounts for about 20% of the world's population.

This number keeps growing each year, partly because the best online casinos for real money are constantly upping their game. They use various incentives to lures players to them, offering perks that weren't around in the early days of online betting.

For instance, real money casinos in Australia entice players with bonuses, minimal deposit requirements, mobile versions, and a wide array of games.

To give you a perspective, before 2006, the number of people gambling online ranged between 14 and 23 million. This table lays it out more visually:

Country % Distribution Amount in million
United States 28-35% 4 million
Asia-Pacific Region 49% 7 million
Europe 23% 3.3 million
UK 2% in 2005 Null
Netherlands 3.5% in 2005 Null
New Zealand 1.3% by 2000 Null
Canada 0.2-2.0%, with an average of 0.6% between 1999 and 2003. However, the number increased to 1.5% – 3.1% in 2006. Null

The legality of internet gambling in Australia, Canada, and the United States

The legality of online betting can be quite a maze, differing starkly from one country to the next. Some countries welcome it with open arms, while others only permit it for tourists.

Let's delve into the legal landscape of online betting in three countries:


In Australia, the go-to law for online gambling is the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 (IGA). But, it's not just a set-in-stone kind of deal – it's been tweaked a few times since it first came out.

Plus, each state and territory has its own set of rules to keep online gambling in check within their borders.

When it comes to what's on the legal menu, Aussies can typically enjoy online sports betting, poker, and a variety of skill-based games. But there's a catch – live dealer games are a no-go.

Also, depending on where you are in Australia, you might bump into tighter rules for online gambling.

Online lotteries are all good to go down under, but they do have their own set of rules. Scratchies, instant lotteries, and keno-style games generally don't make the cut.

Now, for the Aussies keen on a flutter at offshore online casinos – there's a bit of a roadblock. The IGA says a big ‘no thanks' to online gambling that's not greenlit by a state or territory government.

So, playing at online casinos not licensed by the Australian authorities is off the table.

Australian Regulations


Online gambling in Ontario falls under the watchful eye of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). They're the ones who hand out the licenses to online gambling operators and keep a tight rein on the gambling laws within the province.

April 4, 2022, marked a significant change with the launch of iGaming Ontario (iGO). This move created a single, regulated market for online gambling in Ontario.

Now, only those operators with an iGO license can legally offer online gambling services to the folks in Ontario.

Before iGO came into play, online gambling in Ontario was a bit like the Wild West – mostly unregulated. Naturally, this raised quite a few eyebrows about consumer protection and responsible gambling.

With iGO stepping onto the scene, Ontario has positioned itself as one of the most tightly regulated online gambling markets in Canada.

👉 Operators have to stick to stringent criteria, ensuring game fairness, responsible gambling practices, and solid player protection.

Ontarians can now legally gamble online at sites blessed with the iGO seal of approval. These sites serve up a smorgasbord of games, from slots and table games to live dealer action.

But there's a big ‘but' – gambling at unlicensed sites, including those offshore ones not regulated by iGO or any other Canadian authority, is a no-no for Ontario residents.

The AGCO isn't shy about flexing its muscles. It actively hunts down unlicensed sites and moves to shut them down.

So, if you're living in Ontario and fancy a flutter online, sticking to iGO-licensed sites is the smart move. It's your best bet for staying clear of fraud and keeping your gambling habits healthy.

Canadian Regulations

United States

The legal terrain of online gambling in the United States is intricate and always in flux, as there isn't a single overarching federal law that clearly outlines the do's and don'ts of online gambling.

Instead, it's a mixed bag with each state setting its own rules.

Federal Law

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 is the key federal statute touching on online gambling. What the UIGEA does is stop financial institutions from processing transactions linked to online gambling.

This means banks and similar entities generally can't handle payments to or from online gambling sites. However, it's crucial to note that the UIGEA doesn't make online gambling illegal for individuals.

State Laws

The picture gets more complex at the state level, where each state has its own set of regulations governing online gambling. Some states have given online gambling the green light, others have outright banned it, and a few are still sitting on the fence.

This patchwork of regulations means online gambling might be legal in one state but not in the next.

Specific States

Here's a snapshot of where things stand in a few specific states as of December 2023:

  • New Jersey: Trailblazing the way, New Jersey legalised online gambling back in 2013. The state's online gambling sector is under the watchful eye of the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).
  • Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania joined the online gambling bandwagon in 2017. Here, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) keeps things in check.
  • Michigan: Michigan gave online gambling the thumbs up in 2019. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) oversees the state's online gambling operations.
  • West Virginia: 2019 also saw West Virginia hopping on board. The West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) is in charge of regulation here.
  • Delaware: Delaware, another early adopter, legalised online gambling in 2013, with the Delaware Lottery steering the ship.
  • Connecticut: Connecticut entered the scene in 2018, with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) regulating the sector.

Remember, the landscape of online gambling in the U.S. is continuously evolving. States regularly review and tweak their laws, and more states are mulling over the idea of legalizing online gambling. For the latest, always double-check with the relevant state authorities about the legality of online gambling in your area.

Usa Regulations

Top reasons people gamble on the internet

People turn to online gambling for a variety of reasons, some of the most popular being:

  • The convenience it offers over traditional, land-based casinos.
  • Services that accommodate multiple languages and currency conversions.
  • A quicker pace of play.
  • The fun, excitement, and entertainment it provides.
  • The ability to remain anonymous and maintain privacy.
  • Access to tools that help manage and control gambling behaviour.
  • Dislike or discomfort with the atmosphere in physical casinos.
  • The potential for higher wins and lower overall spending.

Exploring the future of internet gambling

The world is constantly evolving due to technological advancements. While predicting the future is tricky, there are certain trends in online gambling that are worth watching in the coming decades:

  • Revenue Increase: Experts anticipate a compound annual growth rate of about 20% in online gambling revenue. This growth is expected due to wider internet access, the legalisation of online gambling in more regions, and advancements in user-friendly gaming features.
  • Appeal to Asian and Female Gamblers: Traditionally dominated by men, the gambling scene is now seeing an increase in female participation. Additionally, the focus is shifting from the European and U.S. market towards Asia, where internet usage is on the rise and telecommunications infrastructure is more robust.
  • Improvements in Betting Exchanges: Betting exchanges are set to further sharpen their competitive edge. This could mean offering better odds for customers and streamlining cost structures for operators.
  • New Market Consolidations: The industry is maturing, with significant market consolidations. For instance, there were just 9 such consolidations in 2004 compared to 32 in 2005. As the market grows, larger players are likely to make more acquisitions to assert their dominance.
  • Increase in Mobile Gambling: With the proliferation of mobile phones, laptops, and other devices, online casinos are likely to expand their offerings to include mobile versions of popular games, previously exclusive to land-based casinos.


  • When did live online betting start? Live betting kicked off in 2002, providing punters the chance to place bets on sporting events as they unfolded in real time.
  • How has technology contributed to the growth of online gambling? The rise of the internet and mobile devices has been a game-changer, enhancing connectivity, graphics, and secure payment options. These tech advances have significantly improved the overall user experience in online gambling.
  • What trends will reshape gambling in the coming years? Keep an eye on several emerging trends set to revamp the gambling landscape, such as:
  • The increasing dominance of mobile gaming.
  • The integration of blockchain technology for enhanced security and transparency.
  • The incorporation of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) for a more immersive experience.
  • The use of AI and data analytics to personalise user experiences and improve services.
  • Stricter regulatory frameworks focusing on player protection and responsible gambling.
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