The very first online casino opened up in 1996 and is still around today. In fact, there are several casinos that opened up the first few years that gambling has been on the Internet (and hundreds since), making it one of the most successful online industries ever. But it was not always success and easy roads for the online casino industry, as you will soon see.
Even before InterCasino opened their virtual doors in 1996, there was a ton of opposition. Lawmakers and anti-gambling groups lined up to take their pot shot at the upcoming online casino openings. But once the High Commission of Antigua and Barbuda in the West Indies passed the "Free Trade and Processing Zone Act", the pieces were in place to make online casino history. They started the Division of Gaming to give out the first official jurisdictional licenses so that potential operators could now legally open up their online casinos. Since the US and other big countries refused to give out these licenses, this is a huge part of online casino history.
Luckily since then, several other jurisdictions have started issuing licenses all over the world, including Canada, the UK and more. But that list stops short of the United States, which still steadfastly refuses to issue licenses.
The first online casinos were met with a lot of skepticism, as sending information like credit cards, names and addresses over the internet was still met with a lot of suspicion. Online casinos were thought to be shady or run by the mob. Slow connections mean staled programs and graphics and a lack of quality software providers in the fledgling industry mean a lot of stalled platforms.
Enter CryptoLogic and Microgaming, two online casino history pioneers. CryptoLogic went out of their way to provide encryption technology to the online casinos, meaning that sensitive information like credit card numbers were now safe from hackers. Microgaming was one of the first and still one of the best software providers, making crisp graphics and realistic sound back when these things were still hard to come by online. Cable modems and DSL lines made it faster and more convenient to start downloading software, with less lag and connection problems.
All that was left to do was to earn trust, which started happening in 1999. That was the year that Microgaming, in an effort to show the honesty of most online casinos, struck an agreement with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, one of the most famous and honest accounting firms in the world. PWC agreed to start auditing the online casinos' payout percentages, to prove that they did indeed payout large sums of money- in many cases, more than Las Vegas casinos.
Because of all of these developments, the new millennium started the Golden Age for online casinos. The first IPO for online casino stock became available, more jurisdictions came online and the first Progressive Jackpots awarded millions to lucky customers. Business was booming.
Soon after, Poker started to dominate the airwaves, and Poker Rooms, many affiliated with online casinos, became all the rage. With the boom in online Poker Room technology, the online casino industry took in billions in 2004, with profits expected to triple and maybe even quadruple by 2010.
Unfortunately, there will continue to be much more to write about online casino history later. This is because the industry continues to have opposition in many camps, which shows no sign of stopping. People like Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona introduce bill after bill trying to shut down online casinos, make it illegal for US citizens to play at them, or at least ban US credit cards from being used to fund online casino gambling.
Although none of these measures has ever passed, they continue to be introduced. With the surge in popularity lately, though, it does not seem like they will make much headway. Hopefully, this means that the next chapter of online casino history has more bright spots than legal ones.