After the advent of the Internet in the early 1990s, the appearance of online gambling was quick to follow.
The industry first took off in the mid-1990s, but it wasn’t until the very last years of the 20th Century that online casinos came to be viewed as legitimate businesses and regulations were put in place to safeguard players.
According to Gambling News Magazine, the online gambling industry is currently worth an estimated $60 billion per year (as of 2019), although an exact figure is difficult to pin down.
In 1994, Antigua and Barbuda, a small Caribbean island nation, became the first country to formally regulate online gambling. After passing a Free Trade Act, it granted licenses to a handful of companies that allowed them to provide online gambling services.
Two years later, InterCasino, a subsidiary of the Canada-based Goldstar Acquisitionco Inc., launched the world’s first fully-regulated online casino. With the use of pioneering software, the company developed novel methods of ensuring secure and reliable online gambling transactions.
Around the same time, major contributions to the industry’s development were also made by NetEnt, a Swedish developer, and Microgaming, a tech provider based in the Isle of Man.
The final years of the decade saw the appearance of scores of new online casinos. By the end of 1998, global revenue from the nascent industry was being estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Texas Hold ‘Em
The industry witnessed a major breakthrough when Planet Poker launched an online version of Texas Hold ‘Em – a variation of poker made enormously popular by the 1998 Matt Damon film ‘Rounders.’
By 1999, fresh innovations in multi-player gaming had allowed players – from different parts of the world – to fully interact with each other, making the online gambling experience even more immersive and lifelike.
Although the US enacted massive restrictions on online gambling in 2006, the global industry is nevertheless poised to generate a whopping $94 billion annually by the year 2024.