iGaming has changed, going from making up a market share of $830 million during the late eighties to a multibillion-dollar industry in current times.
Online casino games have evolved, too, following the market trends and responding to the ever-changing customer demands. The current top-tier choices that include live-streamed interactive gaming, VR simulations, and genre-breaking games are far removed from the simple starting points of online casino games.
1994: Humble Beginnings
Most industry historians place the inception of online gambling around 1994 when Antigua and Barbuda passed the Free Trade & Processing Act. One result of the legislation was setting the groundwork for opening online casinos.
Soon enough, Microgaming, a software company based in the Isle of Man, developed the first fully functional gambling software. This advancement effectively opened the road for the first online casino games.
Two years later, Canada’s Kahnawake Gaming Commission was founded to regulate the newly emerging iGaming market. The Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake-based agency also started providing licenses for gambling sites and poker rooms.
Thus, the Kahnawake Commission took the first attempts to instil fairness and transparency into the remote gambling market. This attempt remains an ongoing effort for most functioning licensors.
1996 – 1998: Early Popularity
There were only 15 gambling websites in 1996. These services included table game simulator sites, online poker rooms and services, virtual lotteries, and similar activities.
Only one year later, the number bubbled to 200. This spike was not short-lived, as in 1998, Frost & Sullivan estimated iGaming revenues to have exceeded $830 million.
First Popular Online Casino Games
Microgaming’s first gambling software, later implemented into Gaming Club, the first gambling site, included Blackjack, Craps, Roulette and Video Poker.
Initially, Online casinos used to host around 20 titles, a far cry from today’s catalogues with title numbers going in the thousands.
The Lichtenstein International Lottery was another pioneering online gambling venue launched in 1994.
Slots Were Late
We know that catalogues of online casino games have evolved to focus on slot software.
However, the activity came later in the picture. In 1998, Microgaming developed the first progressive jackpot slot.
Poker was another popular activity during the early years of remote gambling, especially with the introduction of online casino play in 1999.
1999 – 2000: The Pushback
The nature of the first legal responses towards remote gambling was animosity. The US Senate tried to pass the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act in 1999, but the bill did not pass.
On the other side, Australia managed to prohibit any online casino that was not licensed or operating before 2000 via its Interactive Gambling Moratorium Act. As a result, Aussies could only access Lasseter’s Online as the only such option. Ironically, the service could not take bets from Australian citizens.
2005: UK’s Direction
The UK went the opposite way with the passing of the Gambling Act 2005, a document that created the context for the legal functioning of gambling sites and the creation of a national licensor, the UK Gambling Commission.
2004: How Online Casino Games Have Evolved Later On
Slots became the uncontested winner of the popularity contest among available activities.
Multiplayer online poker has also remained a popular pick, since its introduction with Poker Planet, in 1998. A 2004 survey estimated online poker to roughly $1.4 billion in revenues.
However, 2004 marked another breakthrough in the iGaming industry that will leave its mark on future developments.
Microgaming, the company that started the remote gambling model, launched the first mobile casino software in 2004.
The late 2000s – Early 2010s: Professional Live Dealer Games
Live-streamed online casino games have evolved to become a player favourite. However, they had a difficult development.
Some sources date the first attempts at implementing live dealer activities in 1998. Nonetheless, the technical infrastructure did not permit the smooth functioning of such systems until the late 2000s or early 2010s.
The Concept Existed Early On
The idea of streaming gambling activities was floated around by developers since iGaming’s beginnings. However, the titles we think of when referring to live online casino games have evolved later on.
Providers opted to hire special premises and employ professional croupiers. In some cases, land-based casinos used their venues to stream gambling activities online, thus growing their customer base.
2010s: How Online Casino Games Have Evolved in Recent Times
iGaming naturally followed suit with the newest technological advancements and trends. The Virtual Reality trend opened the door for new remote gambling solutions, since 2013, with the launch of VR casinos.
In the vein of live dealer games, VR gambling aimed to extend the player immersion. While still hinging on simulating land-based casino environments, these new approaches also provided extensive interaction and a more gambler-focused direction.
2022 And Onwards: The Future of Online Gambling
The VR gambling market grew by 800% in 2021. With the tech industry’s interest in the new approach to player interaction, virtual reality is here to stay.
In 2021 we also witnessed how online casino games have evolved to fuse previously separate genres.
Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt is one flagbearer, as the game combines slot functionalities with the live dealer-specific presentation.
Such innovations guarantee the stay of live casino activities in the future of iGaming. We expect many new innovations at new online casinos in 2022.
Blockchain Tech in Gambling
While crypto casinos have garnered infamy due to the risks involved in using them and claims of illegal functioning, blockchain technology has a (legally viable) place in remote gambling.
Already since 2017, companies like Funfair have investigated such implementations and the security provided to online gaming. We can expect gambling operators to adopt blockchain systems for their platforms and software.
These could provide enhanced security against scams and piracy instead of being reasons of suspicion regarding service legality.
Metaverse: The Future or a Flop?
Some may consider it a bit too early to decide on the staying power of alternate reality platforms, especially the newly announced Metaverse.
However, judging by how online casino games have evolved since their inception, we can expect the industry to carve a place for itself in the new tech industry. This is especially the case, given the Metaverse’s stress in user immersion and interaction, as well as crypto and blockchain transactions.
Atari is One Step Ahead
Perhaps, these are not just tall tales and speculation. Game software developer Atari has already announced its efforts to develop Decentraland. This metaverse uses its own $ATRI token and includes a virtual casino.
Going into virtual reality spaces may be a step backwards regarding game quality, given the current technological limitations of the model.
However, butting heads with dire conditions is how online casino games have evolved from 1994 onwards.