Online Gaming – A Quick Timeline

Way back in 1994 the tiny Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago passed the Free Trade & Processing act which enabled licenses to be granted to companies opening online casinos. The same year saw the founding of the first casino software provider, Microgaming, which is still in business today. Back then online casinos were an unknown entity and not many people foresaw the development of the massive online gaming industry of today.  It is unsure who was the first site to accept wagers over the internet but the two most commonly mentioned sites are Microgaming’s Gaming Club, launched in 1995, and InterCasino which opened in 1996. The first online sportsbook Intertops was licensed in Antigua in 1996. That same year the Mohawk tribe in Canada established the Kahanawake Gaming Commission which licensed several online casinos. 1996 was a banner year for online bingo with the launch of the world’s first online bingo website, BingoZone. In exchange for playing members had to provide demographic information and agree to receive targeted ads. This was the start of today’s billion dollar a year internet bingo industry.

In 1998 US anti gambling extremist Jon Kyl makes his first attempt to ban online gambling in the US and fails. Kyl introduces a similar bill which also fails. By 1999 there are about 700 casinos on the internet. By the year 2000 a survey shows that over 8 million people have gambled online. The first online poker rooms opened in 1998 and online poker quickly becomes popular attracting millions of people who play internet bingo. In 1999 PartyPoker and PokerStars opened and remain popular to this day. Both sites used proprietary software greatly increasing the quality of their games.

Online gambling remained controversial in the US and anti gambling extremists Bob Goodlatte and Jon Kyl teamed up and in 2002 proposed a bill to update the wire act of 1961 to cover online casinos. Anti online gaming activity in the US prompted Antigua to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization which rules in Antigua’s favor. The US ignores the decision. Despite the controversy regarding online gaming in the US players in the US account for over half the online gaming market. In 2006 Kyl and Goodlatte get their way by using underhanded tactics to get anti online gambling legislation passed. Since the legislation could not pass on its own it was tacked onto a must pass safe ports bill and presented in a late night session with no time for debate. In fact most members of congress were unaware of the provision. Many online casinos close their doors to US players and online gaming stocks dive on global exchanges.

Since then the online gaming industry continues to prosper and internet bingo games are one of the largest sectors in the industry. By 2012 the online bingo industry revenues are projected at about $2 billion dollars a year. Online gaming is clearly here to stay and in the US legislation has been proposed that would license, tax and regulate online gaming including bingo. Things are looking better and better for the online gaming industry.