Online casinos have become much more prominent in popular culture in the last decade or so. They’ve moved from being something enjoyed by gaming enthusiasts, to a mainstream form of entertainment enjoyed by many demographics on a whole host of different devices.
The history of online casinos is one of technological advancements and changes to legislation coming together to create the conditions for the industry to thrive.
In the mid-1990s, casino games were limited to the physical casinos found in resort cities like Las Vegas or the smaller venues located in some cities elsewhere in the world. If you didn’t live near one of these casinos, then playing popular games like blackjack and roulette would involve you traveling quite a distance.
However, in 1994, as consumers began to buy their first home computers and get connected to the internet, the islands of Antigua and Barbuda passed the Free Trade and Processing Act, making it legal for online casinos to operate from its shores.
Within two years, there were several hundred online casinos operating across the internet.
Development of Games
Online casinos made classic games like roulette, blackjack, baccarat and poker available to players from the comfort of their own homes for the first time. However, to help make themselves stand out, many began developing video slots.
Unlike traditional table games, where there is little room for innovation, online slots give casino owners a lot of freedom to be creative. Many have hundreds of different video slots with a range of themes, varying numbers of reels, and exciting bonus rounds.
Throughout the 2000s, computers got more powerful and internet connections got faster. Online casinos took advantage of this, improving their games by adding better graphics, animations and sounds.
However, the biggest changes would take place at the end of the decade. As Apple began selling iPhones and other manufacturers scrambled to catch up, online casinos jumped on this technological advancement to offer mobile casino apps.
These apps made it easier and more convenient to play table games and slots on the go, at home, or even on the beach.
According to AppLovin, 86% of over 55s have played a mobile game at least once and 30% do so every day. Smartphone apps have also helped to widen the appeal of online casino games. Casual gaming experiences like taming a horse in Minecraft and swiping away on Candy Crush attract older players and both genders, something that PC gaming doesn’t.
This is a phenomenon seen among online casinos too, and has resulted in many companies launching new brands that are targeted specifically at these demographics by offering more social features and lower minimum bets.
Until 2018, online wagering was mostly outlawed in the US, despite the large demand for online casino games in the country. Then, the US Supreme Court struck down a law that allowed states to legalize online casinos, creating a situation similar to 1994 when the government of Antigua and Barbuda made it legal for online casinos to operate.
Now, online casino operators are scrambling to build market shares in the states that have permitted their operation, leading to large marketing campaigns and huge free bet bonuses.
The online casino industry requires a balance of technology and an accepting legislative environment. When these two factors align, online casinos thrive as they provide entertainment to a wider audience.