Gambling Industry and Online Gambling: Historical Survey


The history of online gambling is inseparably connected with the history of land-based gambling, though it is a separate industry now developing according to its own rules. Like regular gambling, online gambling can be defined as any kind of game that involves wagering money – casino games, poker, sports outcomes – and where different kinds of rewards and bonuses – Bingo reward, loyalty bonus, casino bonus – and additional bonus types are offered. But unlike regular gambling that is enjoyed in a land-based casino or hotel, online gambling takes place on the internet. Online gambling is also a much younger industry than regular gambling that started, as we explain in the space below, in the calendar era before Christ.

Online gambling develops much faster than its land-based counterpart.  Appearing in the mid-1990s, online casino gained full legitimacy in the first decade of the new century, quickly becoming a regulated business that vowed to protect players and casinos. Since the early 2000s, the online gambling industry has passed numerous important milestones, about which we are also telling in the paragraphs below. Specialists’ predictions of the future of online gambling are highly positive. By 2024, the industry is expected to be worth US$94 billion. This article touches on some reasons for the growing popularity of online gambling. But first, a few words about the history of land-based gambling are in order.      

Land-Based Gambling

People seem to have enjoyed gambling long before they invented an alphabet. The earliest six-sided dice that archeologists excavated from Egyptian tombs is thought to date back as far as 3,000BC, though some scholars insist that the dice had been invented even earlier, in 6,000 BC. Whatever was at stake when players threw their first dice, it is clear that they were not merely casting lots but were engaged in gambling.

People in China started enjoying gambling in 1,000 BC, visiting numerous gambling houses built across the country. There, they could play lotto, domino games, and bet on fighting animals. Later, in the ninth century, Chinese craftsmen invented first playing cards and paved the way for such card games like rummy and poker.

The latter card game was invented in the 17th century, regarded by historians as an important era for the development of gambling. Poker, undoubtedly the most popular card game now in the world, was first played in Persia. The same century gave birth to public casinos. The first-ever legal casino, called Il Ridotto or a “private room” in English, was opened in 1638 in Venice.

In the following century, the first booking services were offered. The Briton Harry Ogden became the first man in the gambling history who offered legitimate booking services in 1790, encouraging people to bet on horses. Although players had been wagering on animals since chariot racing in ancient Greece, this was the first time when they needed a bookie to place bets on their behalf.

Online Gambling

The history of online gambling is much shorter than that of regular gambling. But it is no less impressive.  The online gambling industry has changed almost beyond recognition over a short period of twenty years. Although it is difficult to identify an exact date when online gambling appeared, historians usually trace its birth back to 1994. This year, after the internet became fully commercialized, Barbuda and Antigua established the first regulations of online gambling. Any company wishing to offer gambling services on the internet received a license to do so. 

The same year, on November 17, the first-ever online casino, called InterCasino, was invented. Now its establishment is regarded as the birth of the most successful entertainment of our times. InterCasino accepted its first real-money wager in 1994. Since then, it has paid out over US$3 billion in winnings. The growth of InterCasino, like the growth of the industry itself, has been steady: the company launched InterPoker in 2002 and was twice hailed as the Top Online Casino.

The success of InterCasino made online gambling extremely popular. Over 200 casinos were opened within a year, which made the industry very competitive. To attract customers, each casino offered players different schemes, the most alluring of which proved to be welcome bonuses. Tough competition between online casinos also motivated their owners to increase the quality of their software and games. In an attempt to outdo each other, companies added more and more sophisticated features to their products and design, inventing multiplayer games, themed slot machines, and progressive slot machines. After several poker rooms opened, Planet Poker launched the first online version of Hold’em.  

Immensely popular among players, online gambling continues developing. One of the latest innovations added to the online casino is the possibility to play with a real dealer. Players now may watch live streams from land-based casinos while playing from the comfort of their homes. The combination of real-world and virtual gambling creates that genuine casino atmosphere that inspires players to place more and more bets. Online gambling sites also offer players versions designed for their mobile devices so that they can play at any time from any location in the world.

Both land-based and online gambling industries will keep surprising us with its innovations, popularity, and wealth. But only time will tell whether the online gambling industry will outplay the regular one and will push it to the periphery of our entertainment world. 

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