History of Online Casinos
Online casinos have been around for about 25 years. Despite being an industry with a short history, the market for online casinos has grown to bring in almost $50 billion of revenue per year. The majority of this business is currently done outside of the United States, where gaming laws are still very strict—although this may change in the coming years. This creates an even bigger opportunity for online casinos, with a wealthy, digitally-savvy market that is familiar with casinos, thanks to cities like Las Vegas. But how did the online casino industry get so big? Here is a look at its history.
The First Online Casino
Online casinos and other forms of iGaming were not legal until the passing of Antigua and Barbuda’s Free Trade and Processing Zone Act in 1994. Once passed, many people and businesses hoping to launch the world’s first online casino began racing to get their products ready, with the winner being an online lottery that launched in Switzerland in 1995. Within a year, more than 200 online casinos had opened for business. These casinos, which offered a range of card games, slots, roulette, and other classic casino games, were much less developed than the ones we know today, but were a very exciting development at the time.
Computer technology advanced rapidly in the 1990s and 2000s, with computers getting significantly faster processors and significantly larger memory each year. This increased processing power and faster internet connections meant that online casinos could develop better features to make the experience for customers more engaging and entertaining. At the same time, laptop computers became more common, meaning customers could choose to play casino games from anywhere in their house (or elsewhere), instead of being confined to a desk.
Truly Mobile Gaming
Whilst laptop computers allowed for some portability, they were not truly mobile. It is difficult to get out a laptop to play a couple of rounds of poker whilst waiting in line somewhere. Smartphones like the Apple iPhone changed this, putting powerful, internet-connected devices into people’s pockets. This meant that online casinos could develop mobile applications that would make their games accessible to more casual players who were looking to pass the time for just a couple of minutes during “down time”.
A Maturing Market
After explosive growth, it became harder to find new customers. With the online casino market maturing this way, many larger brands began to purchase smaller competitors in order to acquire larger market shares. Another way of acquiring market share has been to provide free bet offers, either through the form of risk-free bets or deposit-matching offers. Independent websites like Oddschecker were then founded to provide a comparison of these offers as a way for consumers to find the most appropriate offers for them.
Online casinos are experimenting with new services as ways to make themselves ready for the future. This includes creating online casinos, where players can interact with real-life dealers who are displayed on a live video feed. Other innovations include virtual reality casino games and branded slots that feature licensed TV and film characters. Many companies are also positioning themselves to be able to take advantage of possible legal changes in the United States where online casinos could be legalised in many states, opening up significant new markets.
Online casinos have grown significantly in just a short period of time, with many markets that are yet to be fully exploited. It is likely that the global growth of the market will continue for some time to come. It is not currently clear what further growth can be achieved from developments in technology, as the current crop of live casinos and virtual reality products appear to be targeted more at die-hard customers. This is in contrast with the previous developments, like mobile apps, that made the services more accessible to a wider audience.
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