Thanks to the Internet, remote betting seems to have jumped to a global scale almost overnight. The first online gaming web site was Caribbean Casino, launched in 1994~1995 by an enterprising young Canadian, Warren B. Eugene. Its software featured a mere 18 games. Soon following was Intertops Casino and Sportsbook, established in St. James, Antigua in 1996—the first web site to take sports bets online.
Today, estimates put the number of such venues at more than 2,300, based in 72 different jurisdictions worldwide. They provide a broad variety of wagering options, from race books and sportsbooks to poker rooms, bingo halls, and virtual casinos with slots and table games that rival the best Monte Carlo and Las Vegas have to offer.
Helping to drive the online betting trend are major software developers like Microgaming. Growing steadily since 1996, its technologies now power more than 120 online casinos, 40 poker rooms and dozens of bingo sites, with more than 400 games delivered in over 20 languages on land-based, mobile, and online platforms. Microgaming also created the Progressive Jackpot Network. Since 2000, it has paid out in excess of $280 million to some 7,200 players, including 13 “instant millionaires.”
Other major application makers include Boss Media, who introduced multiplayer gaming in 1999, and Playtech, the pioneer of “live gaming” in 2003. Credit for the popularity of online betting also goes to Cryptologic, who brought secure and effective eCash monetary transactions to the Internet, and Realtime Gaming, a champion of players’ rights and the freedom to conduct gaming operations on the worldwide web.
Legal betting via the Internet has benefits for all involved. The most obvious one for players is the opportunity to wager from the comfort of their own homes—the ultimate in entertainment convenience. On the other hand, licensed online casinos and bookmakers have access to markets far beyond their own shores, allowing them to grow without the constraints of limited floor space or staffing considerations.
Meanwhile, the overseeing jurisdictions gain revenues through license fees and by performing regulatory roles, which in turn ensure players of safe and secure gaming. Commerce is stimulated, profits are made, and new jackpot winners are crowned every day. Little wonder, then, why betting online has taken off in such a big way.
Sportsbooks are particularly well suited to wagering online. Just a few clicks is all it takes to get in on the action for football, rugby, cricket, golf, horse racing, tennis, motor sports, and more. During the past decade, major U.K. betting shops, such as ladbrokes, betfred, william hill, and littlewoods, have become providers of cyberbetting services, thus bringing even greater variety to the types of wagers available and bolstering the integrity of the industry. New innovations, such as in-running betting, are making the medium even more attractive to punters.
Casino-type games have evolved to new levels, too, in recent years. The latest slot and table games have all the attributes of their land-based counterparts, from high-tech audio and graphics in 3-D to hit movie and television themes. The top prizes on Progressive Jackpots are well over £1 million, yet the smallest bets are as little a 1p, so anyone can play. And thanks to the introduction of streaming video, “live dealers” are now available to “chat” online and provide roulette, blackjack, and baccarat in real time right to players’ computers.
Another area of Internet gaming where “chat” has been bringing real people together and creating virtual communities is in the online Bingo rooms. Social networking is very much a part of the game, as players from all over the world engage in challenging “chat games,” gossip and flirt while the bingo cards fill automatically. Again, progressive jackpots make instant wealth a distinct possibility, while cards cost as little as a penny and many are provided as free bets to engage new players.
And perhaps the biggest wave of online betting interaction is taking place in the virtual Poker rooms. In 2003, a 27-year-old amateur, Chris Moneymaker, parlayed a $39 online tournament entry into a $2.5 million grand prize at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Ever since, card players have been flocking to the Internet’s poker tables, where there is never any waiting for a seat, new tournaments start every few seconds, and winning is all about talent and skill, not just luck.
Internet casinos, poker rooms, bingo hall, and sportsbooks provide amusement and entertainment 24/7, along with an open opportunity to win some cash. Not everyone is fortunate enough to strike it rich, of course. Most players experience small gains or losses between highs and lows. But almost everyone has fun betting online, and as long as that’s your primary goal, you can’t help but win.