In 1994, the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda passed an important act allowing licenses to be granted for online casinos, and when the first official casino went online in 1995 it had only eighteen online games and access to the National Indian Lottery.
This emergence in online gambling was in part due to the development of operational internet gambling software in 1994, and helped by the 1995 development of encrypted communication protocols to allow for secure online transactions. Between 1996 and 1997, the number of online gambling websites had increased from fifty to a little over two hundred, and 1998 revenues exceeded $830 million; it became apparent that this was not just a fad.
1998 also saw the first internet bingo site where real cash could be won, and later in the year the first internet poker room; in 1999 the gambling system took a leap forward in terms of competing with land-based casinos with the emergence of multiplayer gambling.
Many countries around the world have significant bans on online gambling; it is an offense in India and Russia outside of the state lottery, and many countries have an enforced state monopoly which ensures the gambling companies are not for profit.
Some of the highest proportion of gambling online in Europe comes from Nordic countries; some analysts jokingly attribute this to stories from 1020 that the kings of Sweden and Norway rolled a pair of dice to attribute territories. Online gambling is permitted in Sweden, Norway and Denmark under state regulation, but the highest spend per person comes from Finland where it has been legal since 1996.
Illegal gambling is becoming quite a problem in Europe, however – according to statistics from the EU, there are an estimated 15,000 gambling websites (and counting), with only 15% of them holding a valid license to operate in their country.
One of the solutions to this problem is ending the state monopoly on gambling and opening the system up to outside countries – unfortunately this would be incredibly difficult to regulate and as such is unlikely to happen.
Other countries in Europe have tried to take a firmer stance than Scandinavia; Germany banned one gaming and betting in 2008 but it was ruled that this was violating EU rules and now casino operators within Schleswig-Holstein are able to apply for online gambling licenses.Online gambling is still on the rise, especially in Europe, with the European Commission reporting an annual growth rate of almost 15% and predicting an annual revenue of $13 billion by 2015. Even despite the economic downturn, it seems that online gambling is a safe bet for profits.