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A Quick History of the Online Casino

Gambling establishments in various forms have been part of human societies for thousands of years. From the oldest of cultures like the Aztecs and the Chinese, to the Ancient Greeks and Roman gladiator forums, to games of chance played out in medieval European pubs and Poker tables at American frontier saloons, the casino has been a mainstay of civilization for centuries. Its latest incarnation, naturally, is the evolution of online casinos, utilizing the networking capabilities of the internet and the electronic transfer of funds to bring gaming to an entirely new level.

The true birth of the online casino occurred in the mid 1990s with the passage of the Free Trade and Processing Act by the small Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda, a piece of legislation which legalized online gambling and authorized the granting of licenses for online casinos based in that country. Capitalizing on the newly opened opportunity, gaming software companies—led by the innovator, Microgaming—began to develop casino software which recreated the casino experience in the online environment, and facilitated the player interactions and financial transactions of the gaming experience.

The advent of online gaming made the casino experience available to players world-wide, and the online establishments enjoyed a rapid rush of popularity as gamers discovered the venue where they could participate virtually in casino-style wagering and gaming. For more than a decade, the participants in online gaming included residents of the United States, where gambling had been illegal for decades except in a handful of designated areas, including the single stand-out state of Nevada, and tribal Indian reservations whose legal sovereignty allowed them to bypass the nation’s no-gambling laws. Legislative wrangling over the legality of online gambling continued in the United States for a number of years, while gamers continued to enjoy the experiences offered in their favorite online casinos, but a court case in 2011 effectively shut down the practice with a ruling that online gambling is, indeed, illegal when the participant is located in a state where gambling is illegal—in other words, every state except Nevada. Online casinos have since been closed to U.S. players, but continue to enjoy tremendous popularity elsewhere in the world.

As with many other uses of the internet which enable people to interact virtually without the hassles of travel or expense, the online casino provides players with the excitement of the gaming experience from the comfort of home—or even, these days, from a hand-held mobile device like a smart phone. A gamer can download an App for a preferred online casino or a favorite online game, and play even during a lunch hour or a commute. All that’s required is internet connectivity and a viable source of payment to initiate the financial transactions.

The movement of money online has been similarly facilitated by the introduction of payment services designed specifically for interactions at online casinos and downloadable mobile Apps enabling a gamer to initiate a wager—or receive the winnings!—with the simple use of a hand-held device. Casino payment programs including Click2Pay, Neteller, and others like them, offer integrated financial interactions with the online casinos, enabling gamers to move money among different casino accounts, check a balance or make a payment with the simple entry of a password, and protect their personal financial information from exposure by the use of the intermediary service. Nowadays there are even some PayPal casinos.

In the early days of online gaming, the new industry had numerous skeptics, but even the initial naysayers would have to acknowledge now the staying power of the online gaming establishment. Perhaps no single event did more to cement the positive reputation of online casinos more than the 2003 World Poker Championship, and its surprise win by a player previously unknown to the poker-playing world. The aptly named Chris Moneymaker had previously played almost exclusively at online casinos, and blew away the competition to win the World Championship, resulting in a virtual stampede of players to the online poker rooms with amateur players’ sudden realization of the value of the venue.

For those who engage in gaming with serious aspirations, as well as those who simply enjoy the recreational value of the game and the wager and the excitement they provide, online casinos have proven their durability. Players can enjoy the pleasures—and in many cases, the profits—of gaming without the extra hassles often involved in travel, and the expenses of accommodations and the travel itself. And because the online casinos themselves don’t have the overhead expenses of their brick-and-mortar counterparts, players enjoy perks and bonuses which the casinos can afford to award to players. Even with the ban of U.S. players, the popularity of mobile casinos has continued to increase, as players enjoy the experience around the world.