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A short history of online gaming

Online gaming tends to conjure up images of wizards and knights or elite soldiers devastating zombie populations and in more recent years games of open-ended, long-term exploration and endless virtual possibility. In this case however, with the word ‘gaming’ we are referring not to those glorious fantasy worlds, but instead the world of gambling.

The history of gambling itself is as old as the history of humanity. For as long as there as been a concept of ownership or private possessions there has been a the idea of wagering one’s possessions on an uncertain outcome in the hopes of getting something more. So popular is gambling that legal gambling (to say nothing of a hugely massive illegal gambling industry) alone makes some 340 billion USD per year. And in the last two decades more and more of that industry has been moving online, allowing gamblers to place legal bets from the comfort of their own homes, and nowadays there’s any number of apps that allow people to bet from their smartphones.

It was in the early days of the internet that online gambling already came into existent. In Antigua and Barbuda in 1994 a law was passed called the Free Trade & Processing Act. The act allowed for licences to be given for online gambling facilities to be developed. Two years later in the United States a Commission was established, the sole purpose of which was to regulate and in some ways promote online gambling. In the late 1990s, as internet connections became more and more reliable, ubiquitous and of course faster and faster the popularity of online gambling soared. By 1998 the first online poker rooms were developed which allowed players from the world over to interact directly, including through chat features that were novel at the time and now taken for granted by nearly everyone with an internet connection. Although it pales in comparison to the profits made by the industry nowadays, at 830 million USD profit in 1998 it was most certainly not something to be ignored.

In was in the early 2000s that governments the world over started taking notice of these online casinos and regulation kicked up quite a lot with Australian, a country that can often be seen to embrace gambling, effectively temporarily banning the practise. That did little to discourage the industry however and it’s been estimated that by the year 2018 the worldwide industry will be worth 56 billion USD, putting it at more than two and a half times the financial size of the largest US industry—the health industry—which makes some 22 billion USD per annum.

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