The Casino di Venezia, perched on the Grand Canal of Venice first opened its door to Venetian clientele during the Renaissance in 1638. Technically it is the oldest casino in the world but gambling has existed for at least 5,000 years.
To steal a phrase from gambling itself, the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of there having been many more casinos predating the Casino di Venezia. Despite having a history over 20 times older than the United States of America, not much has changed in the world of gambling.
Well, that is until the last couple of decades. Read on to find out how the internet precipitated more change in 20 years than gambling had experienced in the previous 4980.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of Casino Gambling
Long before you could open up an app on your phone and wager at a online casino real money, people had to go out of their way to get their fix of table games. The 17th century Casino di Venezia may have sparked a craze of casino building in its own city, but elsewhere most major towns and cities only had a handful of bricks and mortar casinos to choose from.
That was until the advent of cities such as Las Vegas and Macau which combined tourism with gambling. Vegas and Macau were very much outliers though, the majority of towns and cities still had relatively meagre offerings in terms of casinos.
If you grew up in a small town in America, chances are you may have had to drive for well over an hour to visit a casino and play some blackjack or roulette. The one real benefit to that though was that casino gambling was something to be revered.
It was a one-off that you couldn’t enjoy all the time. For many a trip to the casino became somewhat of a ceremonial experience. It involved dressing up in style, setting aside a specific time and often going and making a splash with friends.
In 1994 Microgaming and CryptoLogic started working on a piece of software that was going to change all of that…
The Advent of Online Gambling
As mentioned above, in 1994 Microgaming and CryptoLogic developed the first fully functional gambling software. Two years later in 1996 there were 15 fledgling gambling websites on the World Wide Web; by 1998 that figure had increased to 200 with online gambling revenues reaching $830 million that same year.
Now bear in mind what the internet was like back then. People were on dial-up, the best speed most could get was 56Kbps and most people’s first introduction to the internet was through a free CD-Rom that they got with a magazine.
Amidst that backdrop it’s truly staggering that the industry was not only able to stay afloat but to post such incredible revenues. Over the course of the next 10 years the industry struggled to capitalise on that early success which, in hindsight was perhaps a good thing.
Alarmed at the sudden success of online gambling, many governments decided to put the stoppers on the industry through restrictive legislation. What that allowed the industry to do however was to focus on improving technology and user experience.
So much so that in 2008, by the time many global governments had rowed back on earlier restrictive legislation, the total worldwide online gambling revenue stood at $21 billion. There was another pivotal moment in the history of online gambling in the brewing around that time as well…
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(This announcement would have huge ramifications for the online gambling industry.)
The Next Step: Mobile Gambling
Just 12 months earlier in 2007 Steve Jobs had unveiled the first ever iPhone to the world and despite plenty of bold predictions, no one quite knew how pivotal the device would go on to be.
Now of course we’re all more than aware how synonymous smart phones are with our modern lives, chances are you’re actually reading this article on one.
In terms of online gambling the invention of the smartphone along with the pretty rapid adoption was manna from heaven. It gave almost everyone on the planet instant access to table games, something that had never happened before.
Since then online gambling has grown on average by 20% a year and is predicted to become a $100 billion dollar industry in 2025. Which is why we said earlier in the piece that gambling has undergone more change in the past 20 years than the past 4980 years combined…