Technically, this year has seen some fantastic new innovations in the online casino world, and players have an ever more sophisticated gaming experience. Michael - Poker player Michael's picture
A History of Online Casinos: From Desktop to Mobile & Beyond

A History of Online Casinos: From Desktop to Mobile & Beyond

Online gambling has made spectacular strides during its short yet storied history. It's pretty clear that we've come a long way from the unregulated underground internet casinos of the 1990s. Players can now enjoy hundreds of games at fully licensed casinos anywhere in the United Kingdom. It's hard not to be impressed by huge jackpots and technological innovations like live dealer games and mobile play. Yet these developments didn't happen overnight. It's worth getting to know the past, present, and future of internet casinos


Microgaming claim the honour of releasing the world's first online casino software. Developer Cryptologic joins the race a year later by introducing the first online security measures to protect financial transactions. Meanwhile, Antigua & Barbuda leads the race in forming a platform for online gaming sites to apply for the proper licenses.


InterCasino, the world's first standalone casino sites opens its doors. Players in the United Kingdom and across the globe can place real-money wagers using their PC.


Microgaming releases Cash Splash, the world's first online progressive jackpot slot machine. The game, which currently features 15 paylines, continues to be available today. The networked jackpot, which was available across multiple casino sites, set the framework for today's multi-million pound jackpots. Microgaming also pushes ahead with software that can be downloaded to the desktop or played via the web browser.


Rival jurisdictions begin to issue gaming licenses to internet casino operators. British Crown territories Alderney, Isle of Man, and Gibraltar begin regulating gambling sites for global play. 3D slots begin to make an appearance.


Antigua begins what will be a decade-long dispute with the United States when the US begins prohibiting offshore internet gaming sites from providing services to US players.


The WTO (World Trade Organization) rules that the US has indeed violated international trade agreements. Antigua claims it has around $3.4 billion of losses per year, but is awarded just $21 million. Meanwhile, Microgaming releases Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, one of the first casino slots to be available on mobile phones.

The UK government passes the Gambling Act of 2005, which aims to modernise gaming in the United Kingdom, including online.


The US online casino and gambling market takes a hit when UIGEA is introduced. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act prohibits the processing of financial transactions from players to casinos and poker sites. As a result, many major players withdraw from the US market. Notably, however, many online casinos - licensed in places like Antigua and Costa Rica - continue to accept real-money wagers from US gamblers. While these changes don't directly affect British players, it does cause global gambling experts to sound their alarms.


The first online 'live' casino games are offered from a small Dublin casino. 'Real' roulette and blackjack games are played by human croupiers using real tables and cards. The action is beamed via live stream to players' desktops so they can then place bets on the action. Within six years every major online casino has their own live dealer games.

The UK Gambling Commission is formed. The government agency is now responsible for licensing and regulating gambling providers across the United Kingdom, including online casinos.

Apple releases the iPhone, which will eventually transform the way UK players enjoy online casino games.


United Kingdom internet gambling revenue tops £1.6-billion annually.


Approximately 865 online casinos are in operation with many welcoming UK players. Apple releases the first iPad.


First social casino appears on Facebook, allowing players to enjoy games for play-money. Games allow players to make 'in-app' purchases to unlock levels and new games. A move into real-money casino games is less successful for those firms making the plunge.


Mobile gambling explodes, with an estimated £6.7 billion gambled on smartphones and tablets worldwide in 2013. By this time, social casinos reach a peak, with around £1 billion spent on social casino games.

Progressive jackpots continue to rise as more and more players take to online slots. NetEnt's Mega Fortune game breaks the record for an online payout when an anonymous Finnish player wins €17,861,813.


The Gambling (Advertising and Licensing) Bill passes in the UK. Any company wanting to offer real-money casino games to UK customers must obtain a Gambling Commission license and face UK taxes on revenue, even if they are located outside the United Kingdom.

The same year, Antigua, who had pioneered gaming licensing ten years earlier, moves to seek millions of dollars from the US in compensation for what it sees as a breach of commitment to the members of the World Trade Organization.


The Apple Watch is launched as the first wearable Smartphone tech. Casino apps and games are slow to be released, but Microgaming lead the way with the announcement of an Apple Watch adaptation of their popular The Dark Knight slot.

The United Kingdom record for an online slots payout is broken when a British soldier takes down a progressive jackpot worth £13.2 million playing Mega Moolah.


Mega Moolah celebrates its ten-year anniversary and awards the largest mobile gaming jackpot in online casino history. A player wins the equivalent of £9.5-million off a £1.25 iPad wager. For the first time, more UK players now choose to play on a mobile or tablet than a laptop or desktop.

What The Future Holds

It's hard to believe it's just over 20 years since the first online games appeared. Casinos have risen from a few dozen to several thousand, while jackpots have exploded to seven figures. The industry as a whole is expected to quadruple over the next few years, helped by mobile and social casinos, but it's pretty clear that internet gambling is only getting started. You can expect more games that work on wearables, as well as fully immersive virtual reality gambling. No matter how you choose to play, these are sure to be exciting times for casino players across the United Kingdom.