Online casinos emerged right alongside the mainstream introduction of the internet. Software developers such as Boss Media AB, Cryptologic and Microgamming are credited with pioneering the development of internet casinos and online gambling in general.
Microgaming is known as the first to introduce software that allowed players to play free casino games while Cryptologic is famed for creating the first casino software platform able to facilitate financial transactions. Boss Media got its start by powering Golden Club Casino and many casinos in the Europe, a jurisdiction where online gambling is arguably the most lenient.
In the Beginning
In the mid to late 1990s, online casinos evolved in terms of features and overall quality. One of the most notable features introduced during this time was the progressive jackpot. Still popular today, this feature allowed players across a network of online casinos playing the same game to contribute to a growing jackpot that grew large very quickly. Another feature added in the late 1990s was a built-in function that gave players the ability to view details on their gaming and financial transaction history.
Once the new millennium rolled around, online gambling had grown to become a phenomenon. A large majority of the online casino software vendors improved their platforms significantly and new players were signing up at an amazing rate. The 2000s saw the launch of many new features, including Flash implementation, which enabled casinos to be compatible with operating systems other than Microsoft Windows. This revolution also provided players with a way to play casino games directly through their browsers without needing to download them. With the industry growing fast, multilingual and multi-currency casinos were introduced to service new players emerging in the continents of Asia and Europe. Around this time, the self regulation framework came into play and casino operators began to have their software platforms tested and audited by independent organizations such as TST (Technical Systems Testing) and eCOCRA.
The UIEGA Shakes up the Market
The popularity of online gambling continued to explode through the middle of the decade and it appeared as if that growth would proceed without interruption. However, in 2006, the United States Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, a legislation initially put in place to prevent terrorist organizations from laundering money through internet casinos. Under this act, it was now illegal for financial institutions to process and transfer funds for players involved in online gambling. With leading online casinos such as PartyGaming already facing legal ramifications over the Wire Act, Cryptologic, Playtech and many other prominent software providers fled the market by closing their doors to American players. Microgaming is another well known vendor to recently flee the U.S. market.
Online gambling has come a long way but its progress has not been without controversy. And while several software providers have abandoned U.S. players, vendors like Real time Gaming, Wizard Gaming and Vegas Technology have remained and actually strengthened their brands in the United States following the departure of Microgaming. Will others follow suit? Only time will tell.