The Complete History of Online Casinos

Saddle up, folks, because we're going on a deep dive into the evolution of modern-day online casino gaming and you're invited.

How much do you know about online casinos?

Consider yourself a history buff? Then this blog is for you! We've got everything you need to know about the history of online casinos, plus a bit more. We're talking about where all the gaming fun first began, the development of some of the hottest casino games on the planet, and the big milestones along the way. 

Intrigued? Of course, you are! Go on, kick back, and read on.  


The history of casinos in a nutshell  

The 90s was iconic for so many reasons. Hip-hop music, our favourite Friends hitting the TV and, of course, the invention of the internet. The internet kicked things up a notch for plenty of industries – gambling being one of them. But don't go thinking gambling only started with online casinos! Nuh-uh.  

Jump back three or four thousand years and you'll find evidence of early gambling in Ancient Asia, where history buffs reckon local folks took part in lottery games to raise funds.  

And our buds in Ancient Rome were fans of gambling too, though they went beyond lottery games. Dice games, table board games, even betting on the gladiator sports – flick through Ancient Roman records and you'll find it all. 

By the 1800s, gambling was mainstream business. From cowboys kicking back with a hand of poker in the Wild West to land-based casinos delivering awesome entertainment, business was booming. And the invention of the internet took it even further. Forget travelling to brick-and-mortar casinos! The internet swung open the doors to playing from the comfort of your front room.  

When did online casinos start? 

In 1994, the government of Antigua and Barbuda passed 'The Free Trade and Processing Act', giving this tiny country the right to hand out online casino licenses. Meanwhile, across the pond, another player was entering the game. If you've spun a few slots in your time, then chances are you'll have heard of Microgaming. 

Now a big developer in the games industry, Microgaming was one of the first online casino sites to hit the World Wide Web in '94, with CryptoLogic hot on their tracks. By the end of '97, it's estimated that there were over 200 casino sites operating online. Suddenly players didn't even need to leave their front rooms to experience the action of the casino floor! 

The technology behind online casino games 

Before the action moved online, slot machines were, well, machines. Big, bulky constructions made of cogs and levers; slot games used to have to be physically transported between casino venues. So, you could rock up to a land-based casino hall to find that your favourite slot game had been shipped off to another casino entirely.  

The introduction of the internet changed the playing field, though. By creating Random Number Generator computer software, slot provider studios could replicate the motion of the reels online, complete with entirely random outcomes.  

And the fun didn't just stop with virtual slot machines! Live casino games and casino tables also made it to the World Wide Web. See, Random Number Generators had a part to play in casino tables, too. By using RNGs to randomly decide the next card to be drawn or roll the dice, casino table games, like poker or baccarat, can be played online.  

On top of RNGs, live casino titles also use special camera technology to stream all the action in real time. Crystal clear audio microphones, high-definition video cameras, slow-motion recording software – you can find all this technology when playing live casino games online. 

Introducing laws and regulations for online casinos 

There have been a few milestones for online casinos over the years. Take the legal business, for example. With so many online casino sites, there were bound to be a few rogue cowboys in the mix, so laws and regulations were needed. 

Enter our sheriff: The Gambling Act. Passed in 2005, the Gambling Act serves as the playbook for online casinos looking to operate in a safe and responsible way. You don't want to fall foul of these rules. 

Under the Gambling Act 2005, it is forbidden for people aged 17 and under to play at casinos, both online and land-based. And online casinos must make sure that they're not advertising to anyone who is under 18 years old. That includes avoiding using any imagery or wording that might appeal to people who fall under the legally permitted age to play.   

Online casinos are a kid-free zone, folks! 

The development of popular online games 

Just like online casinos have continued to develop, so have our favourite casino games. Slots, roulette, poker, even blackjack; these games have all experienced a fresh take at some point during the course of history.  

Take poker as an example… 

Online Poker History 

Hot on the heels of Moneymaker’s rags-to-riches success in the World Poker Tournament, demand for poker soared - making it the hottest game on the online block in ’98. Suddenly everyone wanted to play with the iconic poker chips.  

With more players, comes more playing styles, and plenty of different views on what constitutes an awesome game. So, to appeal to different tastes, there is a whole suite of poker variations available to play online nowadays. Keen to play a with multiple hands? There's a game for that. Or enjoy a low-stakes round? There's a poker table for that too! 

Online Roulette History 

And roulette has had the same makeover. A staple across land-based casino floors across Vegas and the USA, roulette is thought to have originated in 18th century France (though the influences are said to be even older) and soon rose to fame with casino players looking for exciting entertainment.  

The actual gameplay and rules haven't changed too much, but there are still plenty of exciting spin-offs to be found online. 

Online Blackjack History 

17th century France didn't just produce roulette. Blackjack is also thought to have originated during this period! A game rooted in mathematics, blackjack and computers could be argued to be a perfect match.  

Take some of the biggest names in blackjack history as an example. What do they have in common? They're usually maths and/or computer wizzes! By using a deck of cards, blackjack is a strategy-based game, which means players were soon using the invention of computers to predict which card would come next.  

Nowadays, the game has become more complicated to avoid would-be cheats taking advantage, and, instead of players taking computers to the tables, they're tapping into the game on their computer!  

Online Slots History  

Remember what we said about RNGs changing the game for slot machines? There have been plenty more developments since then. Megaways mechanics, automated progressive jackpots systems, even multiplayer slot games – virtual slots are always evolving.  

Just sign up to an online casino and you'll see fresh new slot innovations added on the regular. 

The state of play today 

It's safe to say there have been plenty of milestones in the history of casinos. The biggest milestone of them all? You're looking at it!  

We don't like to brag, but here at Bally Casino, we've quite the name for ourselves in the casino industry. With over 90 years of experience and 14 awesome brick-and-mortar casinos to our name, we think the launch of our online casino in 2023 was a real gamechanger to the UK scene. But hey, stick around and you'll soon see why.  

Looking for more know-how from some of the brightest sparks at Bally Casino? Don't dilly dally, get on the Bally Casino blog!