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The iGaming industry was born in 1994 when changes in technology and legislation occurred simultaneously, creating the perfect conditions for online casinos, sports betting, lotteries, and bingo websites to open.
In the 26 years since the industry has grown and matured with several major publicly traded companies building large market shares in Europe and parts of North America. Casino revenues in Europe alone now exceed €20 billion (£18 billion) each year, and the industry is expected to become valued at $100 billion (£76 billion) by the end of this decade.
So what were these technological and legal changes? And could anything like that happen again?
Free Trade and Processing Zone Act
Spotting an opportunity, lawmakers in Antigua and Barbuda set about passing legislation that would make it possible for businesses to operate casinos from its jurisdiction, even if the customers were resident and present elsewhere.
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The result was the Free Trade and Processing Zone Act, which was adopted on 10th November 1994. Very quickly, companies began scrambling to get a license and develop the software required to operate an online casino.
Microsoft Windows and the Internet
At the same time, Microsoft Windows 3.1 was the most common operating system loaded onto personal computers. It was great at the time, but something much more important was in the pipeline, Windows 95.
It went on sale in August of 1995, around the same time that the first online casinos began opening. It came preinstalled with Internet Explorer, the web browser of choice for most at the time.
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This was often the first opportunity many people got to use the internet, especially as companies like AOL began aggressively pushing their dial-up services in the US and Europe.
Windows 95 sold 40 million copies in the first year, ten times more than 3.1, significantly increasing the number of people able to access the new online casinos.
It was an exciting time for users who had unprecedented opportunities to explore information, entertainment, and commerce in ways that had never been possible before. And, of course, iGaming companies were a big part of this.
As computers got more powerful and consumer internet connections got faster, iGaming companies improved their offering.
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We have seen this process repeating twice in recent years.
While the legal landscape in Europe remained the same, technology took a big step forward. As consumers began adopting smartphones en-mass in the late 2000s and early 2010s, iGaming companies began making their services available in this new format.
This meant new and more casual players could enjoy casino games without having to use a desktop or laptop computer.
US Legislation Changes
We can see history repeating itself today. In 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled that individual states had the right to set their own rules related to iGaming. Like in 1994, this started a race for companies to launch their services in the states that legalised sports betting and casinos.
Today, there are 12 states that have made it possible to place wagers online in some form, and more are expected to follow suit in the coming years.
As they do, the iGaming companies will vie for market share, just as they did in 1994 and 1995.