History of Online Casinos | Fortune Coins

History of Online Casinos

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Casinos have been an integral part of human history for so long that it’s nearly impossible to determine their origin. Some historians claim gaming dates back to ancient China, the birthplace of casino games. Others attribute it to Venice, Italy, where the world’s first casino was established. (Bet MGM, 2023)

Thankfully, the story of online gaming is much more straightforward. A mix of historical circumstances, scientific discoveries, and social trends propelled the creation of the first web casino sites. The following article breaks this process down chronologically, shedding light on all the pivotal events that shaped the globally beloved pastime of online gaming.

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The Birth of the First Online Casino Sites

Looking back on the history of casino gaming, it may seem like online platforms rose without a hitch. However, there’s no simple answer to the question, “How and when was online gaming invented?” Multiple factors had to align to allow the industry to develop and gain traction.

The Rise of the Internet

The first prerequisite for the rise of the online gaming industry was the Internet. As you may know, the World Wide Web originated in the 1960s in the U.S. However, computers didn’t properly communicate with one another until the 1980s. The network went public in the early 1990s, lending its resources for general use. 

A few years passed before the invention of the earliest gaming sites. These platforms were among the first to establish themselves on the vast canvas of the internet. (UCLA, A brief history of the internet, 2024) 

The Role of Telephone Gaming

As the internet expanded, owners of land-based gaming businesses recognized a significant market gap. Players enjoyed visiting brick-and-mortar locations to try their luck at casino games and sports predictions. Nevertheless, they sought the convenience or accessibility these locations failed to provide.

In response to this demand, numerous traditional gaming establishments began extending their operations through Teletext and telephones. The former made sports markets readily available, and the latter facilitated remote playing. Eventually, these services seamlessly transitioned to the digital sphere with the emergence of the internet. (Avramovic, 2024)

The Advent of Safe Online Payments

Another benefit brought by advancements in 90s technology was the introduction of secure contactless financial transactions. In 1995, two Canadian businessmen developed software for this purpose. Their invention quickly became a hit, thanks to its ability to carry vast amounts of capital and manage investments remotely. Many industries have adopted it, with online casinos at the forefront.

Safe online payments did more than just allow casino users to play their favorite games and make sports predictions remotely. They also facilitated the withdrawal of winnings via electronic transfer. As a result, online casinos gained a reputation for being more secure than their land-based counterparts. (Klemm, 2024)

When Did Casinos Start Appearing Online?

The convergence of all the circumstances mentioned above, propelled by the general public’s enthusiasm for gaming, resulted in the appearance of internet-based gaming sites. The first online casino, The Gaming Club, launched in 1994. Microgaming, which remains one of the largest software providers today, powered the entire platform.

In the following two years, around 15 other brands joined the fray, supported by various new developers. By 1997, the World Wide Web boasted around 200 different gaming sites, establishing the foundation for a market that continues to thrive today. (Klemm, 2024)

Online casinos have grown in popularity for numerous reasons. Besides their easy access to games and simple monetary transactions, casinos also feature attractive promotions. Although they do not offer incentives that are as generous as today’s Fortune Coins daily bonus or welcome offer, these deals still put them ahead of their competitors.

Early Regulations in the Gaming Industry

Like any new industry, online gaming did not have a regulatory framework in the early days. The lack of fixed rules and guidelines resulted in disarray, with many sites launching solely to scam users. Fairplay was not common yet, and the market was plagued by cybercrime. Thankfully, this predicament didn’t last long.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda saw the popularity of online casino sites as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity. The absence of official regulations gave them a foothold in this booming market. They started negotiations to become the first official online gaming regulatory body quickly after the first web casino went live. 

An agreement with various foreign trade bodies, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), allowed Antigua and Barbuda to pass the first official online gaming act (FTPA) in 1994. The Free Trade and Processing Act made this country the first legal online gaming jurisdiction capable of licensing online casinos. Numerous brands proceeded to set up their headquarters on this Caribbean island, boosting its economy. (Avramovic, 2024)

Origin of Gaming Regulations on the American Continent

Many countries followed in Antigua and Barbuda’s footsteps after this nation’s initial economic success. Only two years after FTPA, the American Continent got its first official online gaming authority under the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake in Canada. (Avramovic, 2024) (McIntosh, 2020)

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission began operations in 1996. Three years later, it issued its first regulatory framework, also known as the Regulations Concerning Interactive Gaming. This agency remains among the most well-known and revered regulatory authorities in the modern gaming industry. (Wikipedia contributors, 2023)

Unfortunately, this trend didn’t take hold in other parts of America. The U.S. has had a contentious relationship with the gaming industry throughout its history, so many of its states banned all forms of gaming. Although somewhat less stringent, Canada struggled with a similar problem. In fact, both countries have only recently begun rethinking their stances toward online gaming.

Gaming Industry Boom of the 2000s

The query, “How long has gaming been around?” might yield big numbers in response. Despite this, it certainly feels like the gaming sector was at its zenith in the early 2000s. Technological developments and more mature and detailed gaming regulations created a multimillion-dollar industry.

Legal issues were still very much on the table, but the burgeoning popularity of this novel pastime overshadowed them significantly. New gaming sites popped up left and right, attracting players through higher-quality games, innovative gaming formats, and more generous promotional offers. Two categories stood out from the crowd — poker rooms and social casinos. (Avramovic, 2024) 

Online Poker Rooms

Online poker sites appeared only a few years after the first web casino. The sector’s pioneer was Planet Poker in 1998, followed by Paradise Poker, PokerSpot, and PartyPoker in the next three years. These sites attracted stronger user bases due to their competitive gaming formats. Still, the actual poker boom occurred after two of today’s biggest poker tournaments debuted in 2001 and 2002 — WSOP and WPT.

Many U.S. poker players turned to this casino classic after Chris Moneymaker, now a poker pro legend, won millions in the 2003 World Series of Poker event. Enthusiasts took to forums and other community pages to connect, share opinions, and discuss strategies. Various online poker rooms launched in response to the new fad, including giants like PokerStars. (Wikipedia contributors, 2003)

Social Casino Platforms

Most countries jumped at the opportunity to capitalize on the online gaming boom, passing various gaming-friendly regulations. However, there were a few exceptions to the rule. Places with infamous anti-gaming legislation, like the United States, fought the legal chaos created by online gaming trends. The federal government passed legislation in 2006 prohibiting financial institutions from processing transactions related to gaming.

Sweepstakes and social casino sites rose to popularity in response to this ban. These platforms built their operations around the no-purchase-necessary business model from the 1940s. (Wikipedia contributors, 2024)

The system allowed them to host various casino-style games without using real capital. These games covered standard casino categories and offered the chance to win big rewards. Meanwhile, they ran on site-specific virtual currency, which players got from the casino for free.

These favorable circumstances made social gaming sites a hit worldwide. Promotional offers like Fortune VIP and partnerships with renowned game developers helped them stay in the game long-term, and they still account for a significant portion of online gaming brands.

Mobile Revolution of the 2010s

The 2000s marked a pinnacle in the history of casino gaming. However, these platforms continued to evolve. The 2010s mobile tech developments made the industry shift gears in an unexpected way. Players put gaming on the move front and center, prompting many brands to optimize their offerings for mobile devices.

The change started with the design adjustments on the pre-existing desktop websites. The new mobile-friendly sites mainly featured classic fruit machine slots and specialty games, as these were easier to adapt to smaller screens and less powerful operating systems. Nevertheless, standalone casino gaming apps significantly expanded the possibilities within a few years.

Most well-known online casino brands offer iOS and Android apps with all popular game genres, from slots to live dealer releases. (Agor, 2023)

Current Growth and Future of Online Casinos

Most changes the online sector experienced during the 2020s revolved around regulatory matters. The pandemic benefited the industry, increasing the number of online casino users and the time they spent playing. The United States alone recorded a whopping 43% spike in popularity of online poker.

These trends caused the U.S. and Canada to loosen some of their stringent regulations, with several states and provinces adopting more gaming-friendly laws. The landscape gained domestically-licensed sites, which bolstered security in the sector. However, it also lost quite a few quality online casino sites due to offshore-based site prohibitions. (Avramovic, 2024)

Innovation in the Online Gaming Industry

Several reforms have only recently started to take form in the gaming sphere. The most notable include:

  • Blockchain technology — The crypto industry boom led some casinos to accept digital currencies and launch within the Web3 sector. Blockchain technology made their transactions faster, more private, and less expensive. It also gave players access to provably fair games and utility coins, among other benefits.
  • VR and AR—The popularization of virtual and augmented reality has made casino games more immersive. With the help of tools like VR glasses, this technology can place players inside online casinos, letting them interact with their environment. They can play games and communicate with the casino staff and other players in a similar way they would at traditional, land-based casinos.
  • AI — The increased use of artificial intelligence caused online casino owners to consider its potential benefits within the gaming industry. According to experts, AI could analyze users’ behavior and choices to customize their gaming experience, offering game recommendations, personalized bonuses, more effective customer service, and more. (Agor, 2023) (Ramani, 2023)

Final Thoughts

The first online casinos were simple, internet-based card rooms available to a small group of users. However, the rise of the internet, regulatory changes, and the demand for convenient, remote gaming turned them into gaming powerhouses. 

Today, these platforms offer an array of traditional and free-to-play games, standalone apps, competitive tournaments, and fantastic reward potential. With exciting technological developments underway, they’re poised to become even bigger and better in the future.


Who invented casinos?

History doesn’t credit a single person with the invention of casinos. However, records show these gaming venues date back to the Renaissance era. The Great Council of Venice established it in Venice, Italy, under the name Ridotto.

When was online gaming invented?

Online gaming first appeared in the early 90s, a few years after the rise of the internet. It resulted from players’ demands for convenience and coincided with the invention of safe online payment software and regulatory changes.

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