Home | Features | Online Casinos: A History of Innovation and Immersion

Online Casinos: A History of Innovation and Immersion

February 22, 2024

Online casinos have existed almost as long as the Internet, well maybe not that far back, but certainly for as long as the World Wide Web has been useful and, more importantly, popular. Some millennials and GenZ can’t imagine a world without Siri or Alexa, and in some ways, the magic of a land-based casino has been superseded by convenience.

The first online casino to accept bangers (cash) was an online casino called InterCasino, based in the West Indies. Antigua, to be specific. InterCasino, way back in 1994, was nothing like the eye-catching and inviting online casino experience you get today. Prior to 1996, online was an enigma; most households didn’t get a PC until after the millennium. One UK survey says personal computers were only in 28% of homes by 2001.

The home computer and some very archaic gaming PCs were readily available twenty years earlier. The Atari 2600 was not the first home system with swappable game cartridges, but it was a bestseller. By 1980, the Atari 2600 was the most popular console by a wide margin, financed by Atari’s licensed version of Space Invaders from Taito. Anyone who is into the hit show Stranger Things will be familiar with the basic Space Invaders graphics, but the game was a revolution for the gaming industry at the time.

People wanted technology, and with innovation came a different way to entertain the masses. TV was not the only option, and young gamers drove the industry with a thirst for new and interesting content.

The UK National Lottery pioneered mobile gaming

Interestingly, it was here in 2003 that the UK National Lottery licensed the first mobile gaming software. While apps, in general, were not popular, and people wanted to buy physical tickets from corner shops, the UK was a mobile gaming pioneer.

Online gaming wasn’t commonplace entertainment until mobile gaming became a thing in and around 2005, not really making an impact until the advent of smartphones. The release of the iPhone 2G, commonly called the iPhone 1, and its Android partner, the HTC Touch in 2007, propelled mobile gaming from the few to the many. 

Online casino a timeline

1994 – Creation of Microgaming

While gameplay was popular in land-based casinos, the growth of the online industry was needed. A company based in the Isle of Man called Microgaming was the first company to receive licenses to create and distribute software for online casinos. 

1994 – InterCasino Launches

InterCasino was the first online casino to bank real money and officially marked the start of online casino gaming (although InterCasino didn’t receive a penny until 1996). The same year, the free trade gambling law in Antigua and Barbuda allowed online casinos to base their internet operations in the Caribbean nations. 

1995 – CryptoLogic add secure financial transaction

Microgaming and CryptoLogic, an online security software company, team up to develop methods to make it possible for players to enjoy secure financial transactions online. In the same year, Microgaming launched roulette, blackjack, video poker, and craps and developed player management tools and tracking systems to ensure the smooth running of the new ventures.

1996 – InterCasino takes cash

The first real money wager placed online at InterCasino was launched in Antigua, with William “Billy” Scott heading up the online casino and taking the credit for the history made.

It makes senses that many tech-savvy online casino players are well versed in the ways of NFTs

1998 – Online Poker Debut

In early 1998, Planet Poker introduced Texas Hold’em to the World Wide Web, celebrating the dawn of internet poker. Later, in 1998, Cash Splash, the first progressive jackpot slot, was launched by Microgaming.

1999 – Boss Media is the Boss

Boss Media released its multi-player gaming development platform in 1999. No longer must betters play against the house. Virtual players can sit in a group around a virtual table to play casino games. 1999 saw the gaming software giant Playtech enter the market. The milestones continued in the internet casino world, with as many as 700 official sites operating online by the end of 1999.

2000 – No Bugs Here

The Millenium bug was a no-show, and there are more options to gain gaming licenses in host countries. Gibraltar and the Isle of Man (UK territories) offered licenses for online gaming sites, while Cryptologic is listed on NASDAQ. Under CRYP, Cryptologic leads the way for other stock market listings, proving that online gaming and casinos are legitimate businesses.

2001 – Progressive Jackpots Progress with Online Popularity

In 2001, a progressive jackpot of $414,119 was offered and won at The Sands of the Caribbean online casino. However, it was not long (2002) before Microgaming’s Major Millions paid a $1.5 million jackpot at Captain Cooks Casino.

2003 – Regulations take hold

The independent standards authority, the non-profit organization eCommerce and Online Gambling Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA) is introduced to the industry. Its goal is to fill in for the lack of a regulatory body at that time. It was also in 2003 when Playtech developed live gaming. From now on, gamblers may use interactive video streaming and face live dealers at the online casino.

2005 – Mobile Gaming is On

Microgaming, in partnership with Spin3, provides mobile casino games. Mobile gaming shows potential as Microgaming is the first in the mobile gaming industry to leap forward and pave the road for the future. Also in 2005, online casino businesses shifted toward England by trading on the London Stock Exchange, with PartyGaming entering the FTSE 100.

From 2005 onward, the scene has been well and truly set for today’s online casino industry. Scroll forward to 2023 – the Mega Moolah jackpot prize surpassed 929 million, and jackpot winners worldwide reached over 18.75 million. 

While this is not a complete history or timeline, we think you can safely say our potted history of online casinos and online gaming gives you a taste of the past.