Online casinos seem to have been around forever, yet they are also one of the swiftest sectors when it comes to embracing new technology. Here’s how they have progressed from the earliest days, and what the future might hold in the world of online betting.
The Earliest Days
Online casinos go back slightly further than many may guess, to the mid-1990s. The first software for betting on them was put together by Microgaming in 1994, and this early development proved a boon for the studio, which remains one of the leading developers even today.
Just a year later CryptoLogic developed a secure online transaction system, an essential ingredient in the success of the nascent industry.
Between Microgaming and CryptoLogic came the first two casinos, GamingClub and InterCasino respectively. But a lot more were soon to follow, with literally hundreds of online casinos just a couple of years later.
Many of these came from Europe, which has traditionally had a more laid-back approach to online betting than other parts of the world, including bookies (sportbooks) that branched out.
In more recent years the USA has liberalized its laws when it comes to online betting, and the number of international casinos is now in the thousands.
Rivals to Microgaming were swift to spring up, and online betting software remains highly competitive, from large studios such as Microgaming and NetEnt to smaller but high-quality developers like Thunderkick.
The Smartphone Revolution for Mobile Gaming
A milestone in online betting, and one of the major advances since the initial birth of the sector, came when mobile telephones advanced from calls and texts into becoming mini-computers with the advent of the smartphone.
This allowed players to access casino games on the go, no longer chained to a desktop (laptops are portable but far less convenient, of course).
Microgaming was also first off the mark here, developing (in 2004) the first mobile casino software on the market. Since then it’s become standard practice to design games from the ground up to be fully compatible with mobile devices (including tablets as well as smartphones).
Rise of the Bonuses
Convenient betting at online casinos was popular right across the world very early on, and this meant sites had to scramble to get ahead of the competition.
This was (and still is) great news for players, who found themselves courted with ever more generous no deposit, match deposit, cashback, and other bonuses.
These promos were put together by the best international casinos that were accessible from any part of the world and enable players to enjoy a golden hello with welcome bonuses.
Nowadays, these promos are still present and often used to steer players towards payment methods (such as crypto) that come with lower processing fees than Visa and Mastercard.
Live Dealer Games
Another big step forward took place very shortly after the mobile gaming revolution, and this was live dealer gaming. Putting together the ease of playing from home with a greater degree of real-life atmosphere, live dealer games also reinvigorated the table games category.
In addition to old classics such as blackjack, baccarat, craps, poker, and roulette, live dealer firms also came up with new varieties of these and gameshow-type offerings like Monopoly and Deal Or No Deal.
The biggest beast in the live dealer jungle is undoubtedly Evolution Gaming, which was founded in 2006.
Cryptocurrency has become more relevant to everyday life for a great many people in the last few years, and can be used to receive salaries, shop online, and play at online casinos.
This was not always commonplace, but due to a combination of both direct support from sites that accept Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, and more, and indirectly through accessibility via e-wallets like PayPal and Neteller, most casinos can now be used by crypto enthusiasts.
This is a fundamental shift away from older systems of payment, and even e-wallets due to the unique nature of cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is far and away the most commonly accepted cryptocurrency at online casinos today, with support continually increasing.
Future Prospects – VR and NFTs in the Metaverse
The first tentative steps have already been taken down the path to what is almost certainly the next big shift in online casinos. This is the metaverse or, to be more exact, metaverses.
Shared online worlds are seen as the next big thing not only for online betting but the internet generally.
One crucial aspect of metaverses and metaverse casinos is the increased use of VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality), technology that currently exists but is undergoing continual refinement. This shifts the casino from a 2D screen into a virtual 3D environment.
Blockchain technology has been used in casinos for years now due to the increasing support for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but this is not the only use of the blockchain that will occur with metaverse casinos.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are currently all the rage, and wearable NFTs for digital avatars are already in use for some metaverse betting. Blockchain tech forms part of NFTs directly, and indirectly through the predominantly Ethereum means of paying for them.
While online casinos have changed dramatically during their decades of existence one consistent thread is the willingness to adapt to new technological opportunities. How metaverse casinos play out will be very interesting to see.