Online wagering only began in the 1990s, but it didn’t take long for it to become a multi-million dollar business. The catalyst for the explosion in online gaming came in 1994, when the government of Antigua Barbuda, an island nation in the Caribbean, passed a law allowing online casinos to operate from their country.
Naturally, many people saw this as a huge opportunity, and two of them, Andrew and Mark Rivkin, formed a company called Cryptologic to write software enabling safe handling of finances in online gambling with till-then unequalled encryption practices. Another big company was formed in 1994 too: Microgaming.
Cryptologic and Microgaming were the two leading companies as afar as gaming technology. Cryptologic was first to make a fully operational gaming platform with electronic money account management. By the end of 1996, InterCasino was up and operational on the web – one of the very first online casinos. It wasn’t long before online casinos were a multi-million dollar industry. Not long after that it stepped up to being a multi-billion dollar industry.
In 1997, Microgaming released Cash Splash, the first online progressive slots game. At this time, players from the US were a large chunk of the online betting population, and this fact drew the attention of Senator John Kyl (R-AZ), who started drafting various legislative bills to stop people from gambling online. The first of these, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, did not pass, and Americans continued their love affair with online
Other world players coming on board the internet casino train during the late 1990s included Argentina, and UK territories Gibralter and Isle of Man, which began online sports betting sites. By 2001, the British Channel Islands legalized online betting, and later that year, there was a push to legalize internet wagering in the UK as a whole.
In 2005, the UK Gambling Act was approved, and it was a boon for the internet casino industry. The law created the UK Gambling Commission to oversee all enforcement of regulations in licensing online gaming sites, preventing underage gambling and ensuring software fairness accreditation and reporting of monthly payout percentages. The Commission also investigates and prosecutes illegal gambling and basically is a very comprehensive online wagering regulatory agency. The UK’s internet wagering oversight is now considered a model for other countries that want to regulate online gambling.
In October 2006, US legislators tried to legislate an end to betting online by American citizens with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), attached the bill to a “must-pass” bill on Port Security aimed at combating global terrorism, claiming that online wagering proceeds were used by offshore companies to fund terrorism. But just before enforcement of this act was to go into place, new legislation was written allowing US citizens to participate in online gaming. Though it has passed from committee, there is no guess as to when or if it will be passed by the House and Senate. That means that currently, US online gamblers exist in a gray area of the law, though public sentiment is growing behind full legalization of online gambling in the US.
By John Trodey
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