Casinos have always been associated with the high-life, with tuxedos, jewellery and wads of cash changing hands. This has never been more true than today, except that now the real action is moving away from brick and mortar casinos to the world of online gambling. Online games developer Microgaming came up with the very first online casino back in 1994, and since then the industry has evolved into something far beyond the imagination of those early online pioneers.
The sheer range and breadth of online gambling options today would have astounded the early adopters of online gaming. Sports betting online has become common-place, especially with the rise of live in play betting, which is perfectly designed for smartphone users. Poker enjoyed an explosion of interest in the early 2000s when it moved online, and especially when players started qualifying for major international tournaments from their bedrooms. Bingo was always seen as a sociable past-time, and it has managed to capture that same spirit while moving from bingo halls to online bingo rooms. It is also possible to bet on markets which were once considered exclusive (financial markets).
Meanwhile online casinos have grown exponentially since that first rudimentary effort was launched back in the mid nineties. Now a standard online casino will regularly feature hundreds of online slot games, including video slots and progressive jackpot games with 7 figure prizes. You can also find the online versions of traditional casino table games like baccarat, blackjack and roulette. Plus many casinos boast a range of instant win games, scratch-cards and live dealer casino games with a video feed which allows players to experience casino action from the comfort of home.
Trying to estimate just how many online casinos are operating today requires a certain amount of guess-work. Even if we discount the unlicensed casinos which tend to come and go in quick order, it still leaves a huge selection of sites competing for players’ dollars in this crowded market. Rough estimates suggest that there may be around 2,000 legitimate online casinos active at the moment, although no official figures have been published. A visit to sites like Reel Bonanza will give you an idea of the scale of the numbers involved, as it has up-to-date information on promotions involving hundreds of active casinos and slot games.
When it comes to the numbers involved in the online gambling industry today, you are looking at some astronomical figures. The global online gambling market was estimated at being worth $35.97 Billion in 2014, with that predicted to rise to $66.59 Billion by 2020: almost doubling within the space of six years. Online gambling is legal in more than 80 countries today, although there are plenty of territories where a legal ‘grey area’ means that a lot of people are gambling online without facing any restrictions. Europe presently has the largest market for online gambling in the world, although improved internet connectivity and the availability of cheaper computers and smartphones means that there is plenty of room for growth in this market.
The ban on online gambling in the US has been a major roadblock for the industry, although the signs are that this will change in the near future. Already online gambling is legal in some US states, and the restrictions may well be loosened further in the coming years. Meanwhile huge territories like Brazil and India look into the pros and cons of legalising online gambling, which will also have major ramifications for the industry going forward. Africa, South America and Asia are territories which are largely unregulated in terms of online gambling, but it is not a market which governments can afford to ignore for much longer. The millions and billions of dollars in lost tax revenue is a powerful incentive to introduce appropriate legislation.
Despite all the advances and innovations which have occurred since that first true online casino was launched in 1994, the online casino market is still effectively in its infancy. Certainly, the market is nowhere near its peak, with a lot of growth expected in the coming years as online betting sites become available to more people across the world. While European countries are coming to terms with introducing online gambling legislation, many other parts of the world still lag behind. Legalising online casinos in the United States and Brazil – to name two major potential customer bases – would see the financial scope of the industry leap forward again. It is now incumbent upon governments around the world to address the issue head-on, because online casinos are not going anywhere.
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