Online gambling first appeared on the internet in the mid 1990s. In 1994 Microgaming software was founded and still has the corner market today in many of the online casinos. Microgaming is chip software that runs the various machines found in land and online casinos. There is some debate as to who was the first casino to pop up on the internet and most would say InterCasino first appeared in 1996. However; there are others who claim that Microgaming’s Gaming Club was the first online in 1995.
From the first casino to go live on the internet, casinos continue to improve their operations online and tweak the software, servers and connections that cater to the players on the World Wide Web sa gaming. Regardless of slow bandwidth causing connection problems for the players, the industry still raked in an estimated $834 million in 1998.
Intertops was the first online sports-book to appear in 1996; however they have been in operation long before that by taking phone bets since 1983. Intertops is still going strong today and is satisfying over 180 countries with their service.
Online poker first sprang up at the start of 1998 and was facilitated by Planet Poker. Following suit was Paradise Poker in 1999, Party Poker and Poker Stars in 2001. Planet Poker is still in operation; however they no longer allow real money to exchange hands. By 2008 Party Poker had lost the lead in the industry to Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker, estimated by the number of players online.
The popularity of online gambling does not seem to be decreasing since its birth. With state of the art technology, online casinos have the ability of offering real time play and instant spin capability, thus satisfying all sectors of the gambling industry and increasing revenue. The casino software available today is not only advanced for the players utmost enjoyment but is completely secure.
In 2010 the online gambling industry grew by 12.5% with gross revenues of close to $29.95 billion, regardless of the perceived recession. The online casino sector grew an estimated 13.3% in 2010 and brought in an estimated $2.67 billion. The most money contributing to the gambling revenue online is generated by sports betting at about $12 billion.
Online bingo stole the lead in being the fastest growing sector for 2010, estimated at 28.4% growth and to the tune of $2.67 billion. Although poker is the most talked about, it was deemed the slowest growing online gambling sector which generated about $5 million.
In 2006 many of the online gambling companies decided not to allow USA players spend money in their establishments anymore due to the uncertainty regarding laws of offshore gambling, following the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. There was a great debate regarding different states that were legally able to gamble and those who were not. Many of the casinos revised their policies regarding USA play since that time and now the majority of online gambling establishments will again accept USA players.
As it stands today, individual states are free to prohibit or practice gambling within their borders while significant regulations and limits are placed on interstate and this activity. In recent years, online gaming has seen harsher regulations. With the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIEGA), it was not explicitly banned but rather it was online financial transactions that were outlawed. This meant that all online financial transactions from gambling service providers were now illegal which resulted in many offshore gambling operators excluding US customers from their services.
Existing in this legal grey area, it is no longer a question of if online gambling will enter the US market but when and perhaps how. As recently as this month, three states have legalized online gambling and plan to begin offering bets by the end of this year. Naturally, a gaming firm in Las Vegas known as Ultimate Gaming was the first to offer online poker but for now restricting it to only players in Nevada. New Jersey and Delaware have also legalized online gambling and so far ten other states are considering legalizing it in some form or another.
Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association has said that “Unless there is a federal bill passed, we are going to have the greatest expansion of legalized gambling in the United States. I don’t think that’s what anyone intended, but it is what we’re seeing.” This poses a lot of questions and of course concerns for many existing commercial casinos as well as American policy makers. Will legal online gambling mean fewer people in brick and mortar casinos? Will this create a new source of revenue at the state and national level? What about taxes and regulations? An increase in gamblers?
Many people including Arnie Wexler, former chairman of New Jersey’s Council On Compulsive Gambling has voiced concern that with all the good this could do to generate income and revenue for individual states there could be problems with an increase in compulsive gambling. There is particular concern regarding social media in the US as some places like Zynga have already begun taking real-money bets.
Taking in mind all the questions and concerns, many hotel casinos are already making plans to expand into online gambling to complement their physical casinos. Geoffrey Stewart, general manager of Caesars Online Poker has said “Like any other business, you’re always looking for what is the next distribution channel.”