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For gamblers in the twenty-first century, it is extremely easy to enjoy a quick flutter, whether it is at an online operator or their nearest land-based casino. The layered tale of how this all came into being covers centuries of yo-yo regulations, complete with visionary entrepreneurs that shaped gambling as we know it. Take a trip down memory lane with us as we explore details about the individuals that contributed to the success of gambling leading up to the present. Some had the power to change laws, while others had the money to establish casinos. Let's take a historical and biographical spin around the globe! A Brief History of Legal Gambling Games of chance and man's love for it date back to prehistoric times. Unsurprisingly, gambling's legal state varied greatly over the centuries, and its prohibition reigned for long periods at a time. Legal gambling is, in fact, very new compared to how long we've used games of chance as entertainment. Except for certain regions in Europe, most gambling only enjoyed legal status at the beginning of the 20th century. Although there were short periods before this where countries allowed citizens to enjoy making wagers, the most solid legislation came into the equation around the 1930s in America and 1960 for Britain. Decades later, the internet and innovative gambling tycoons led to the remote gambling industry that today allows millions of players worldwide to enjoy wagering wherever they find themselves. People Who Paved the Way Changes in the industry came about gradually as more regions from various continents legalised casinos, and the individuals that propelled these changes included congress members, wealthy dreamers, and talented software developers. Here are brief biographies of the individuals that shaped the gambling world. Europe ✓ Il Ridotto and the Great Council of Venice The first known permitted casino dates back to 1638, when the Great Council of Venice opened a temporary private room during that year's carnival. They named the public casino il Ridotto and planned to close it once the carnival packed up. Although the Roman Catholic Church objected to the practice of gambling, it was public demand and full government coffers that kept the gambling house flourishing. Thanks to the people of the Great Council, this gambling house inspired others in surrounding regions like Paris and Monaco, which essentially kick-started the global casino industry. Unfortunately, the Ridotto didn't survive reformist Giorgi Pisani's motion to close it and its doors shut forever in 1774. ✓ Cardinal Jean-Theodore, Bavaria Through the approval of a decree, Cardinal Jean Theodore of Bavaria allowed for the opening of the second oldest casino in the world, Redoute casino. The facility opened in 1762 and trades to this day, although its name changed to Casino Spa. A few years later, another casino opened as part of a bathhouse in the German region, Baden Baden. At the time, it was the casino for royalty, but Baden Baden Casino exists to this day, with its elaborately luxurious interiors, and is open to all gamblers. ✓ Prince Florestan I and Francois Blanc, Monaco Gambling and European Aristocracy have strong ties that date back centuries. In 1856, Monaco's Prince Florestan, the first, passed a concession for the opening of the region's first bathing house and casino. Monaco only experienced genuine success in its gambling industry two years later, after Hamburg's Francois Blanc entered the country and built a casino. Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo came into being in 1858. USA Like all other parts of the globe, North America has a complicated history with gambling. It wasn't until the 20th century that casinos were legally allowed in some states. ✓ Governor Fred Balzar Opens Reno Following over two decades of prohibition and countless illegal operations, Nevada State Assemblyman Phil Tobin introduced Bill 98, which allowed for wide-open gambling in the state. Governor Fred Balzar understood the financial implications and signed the bill into law on 19 March 1931. From there, small gambling venues traded for a decade in Reno before the first Las Vegas licences appeared. ✓ Thomas Hull and El Rancho Armed with his Las Vegas licence, entrepreneur Tommy Hull built the first hotel-casino in Sin City. Rumour has it that the land owner offered it to Hull for free, but he insisted on paying $1,000 per acre and took 57 acres from her. Hull's casino celebrated outstanding success, and its surrounding area later became known as the Vegas Strip. We all know how the rest of this story goes. Today, Las Vegas is the gambling hub of the West and the Strip houses 31 stupendous casinos and resorts. ✓ Enoch L. "Nucky" Johnson and Atlantic City New Jersey is yet another gambling jurisdiction with a long history of gambling, starting before the prohibition era. Locals tell the tales of how it was a well-known attraction to find all prohibited goods and services in this state. During his time as the leader of the Atlantic County and Atlantic City governments, Enoch L. "Nucky" Johnson publicly admitted to the lawlessness of his state. For a good reason, he had the reputation of a powerful city boss. Although his methods were crooked, Johnson paved the way for Atlantic City's casino industry's success. Federal Authorities eventually grew tired of Johnson's criminal approach and arrested him. The first legal casino opened in the 70s after countless landmark hotels were closed and demolished. Britain The first legal casino in the UK opened its doors in 1961, following the government's release of the Betting and Gambling Act that year. ✓ The Casino Club and George Alfred James Some refer to him as 'The Father of British Casinos' and The Casino Club Port Talbot was George Alfred James' brainchild that launched his UK casino empire. Located in Wales, the spectacular facility included a fine dining restaurant for 400 people, illuminated floors, and cabaret performances for the wealthy aristocrats of the area. Frequent guests comprised celebrities and other rich and famous Brits. One year after this, James expanded his casino business and opened the doors of the Prince of Wales club in Cardiff, The Golden Horseshoe in London, and The Kingsway Casino in SouthPort. The latter became a flagship in James' empire with events like celebrity appearances and top musical performances, merging casinos and entertainment in the UK for the unforeseeable future. Macau Like most regions, Macau's gambling history includes power struggles and regulatory challenges. Nonetheless, Macau became the world's leading gambling hub in a short 4 decades. ✓ Stanley Ho He may not have been the most popular guy in the room or world, but Macau's journey to the gambling capital of the world started with Stanley Ho's monopoly casino empire. He secured a gambling monopoly licence for Macau in the 60s and worked his magic. Under the syndicate, Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM) Ho started with the New Garden Casino and a year later opened the casino hotel, Estoril. Nearly a decade later, after establishing smaller gambling venues across the city, STDM presented its flagship casino, the Lisboa Hotel, where patrons enjoyed traditional Chinese games and Baccarat, blackjack, and slot machines. The Lisboa had the first VIP rooms, leading to Macau's flourishing junket operator's industry. Ho's reign and his monopoly ended in 2002 when the Chinese government freed up the gaming industry. Online Gambling In 1994, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda established the Free Trade and Processing Act, which allowed licences for online gambling companies. Regarding whom the first official online casino provider was, it remains arguable, but the following had a tremendous impact on the igaming world. ✓ Roger Raatgever and Martin Moshal South African-born business graduate Roger Raatgever was Martin Moshal's investment and loan banker when Moshal faced a declined loan application to start a software company. Raatgever believed the online gambling company had potential and offered Moshal loan security for a 50% share in what would become Microgaming. Their company officially launched in 1994, and Raatgever was the CEO. Microgaming launched its first online slot, Cash Splash, in 1998 with the first progressive jackpot. In collaboration with other industry leaders, Raatgever worked to break down industry stigmas, and they created the Interactive Gaming Council, which became a pioneering regulatory body in iGaming. ✓ Denise Coates and Bet365 The cutthroat gambling industry does not have many female faces in executive positions, but UK-born Denise Coates is not just any lady. In 1995, her father offered her the chance to manage their family business, a betting shop chain. Driven by the absolute conviction that online sports betting is the way to go, Coates persuaded her lawyer brother to join forces with her and with his support, she launched Bet365. Bet365 is one of the world's most reputable online betting platforms. Two decades of hard work allowed Denise to help shape the sports betting global market. ✓ Big Time Gaming Online gambling in all its forms was well established by the time that Nic Robinson founded his software company named Big Time Gaming. Since his company's launch in 2011, it has contributed to unforgettable changes in the iGaming industry. Most notably, Robinson's business invented the crazy mechanics that power Megaways, and since then, slots were never the same. BTG became part of the innovative live casino company, Evolution in 2021, and the partnership continues to shake things up in igaming. A Golden Future It may have taken a century to shape the gambling industry into what it is today, but the speed of change and innovation change gears constantly with the rapid growth of late. These figures made invaluable changes for gambling and casinos, and many more will follow as we move into the era of virtual reality and the metaverse. One thing remains clear, the future of gambling is as exciting as the colourful tales in its history.
Technology is a force of nature, and when embraced, it can lead to spectacular things. The same can be said for the online casino industry and all it releases. From the launch of the first online casino, well before its time, to the online casino games we have today, evolution and innovation are always the key terms. Let's take a walk down memory lane and relive the exciting moments through the history of online slot technology. ✓ 1994 – Online Slots Are Born Thanks to Microgaming In 1994, the world of casinos and gambling changed forever. Games of chance and gambling games have been around for millennia, but online casinos were born thanks to Microgaming. In a time when the average household didn't have quick and easy to the internet, Microgaming took a chance and released online casinos along with the first online slot. ✓ 1998 – First Progressive Jackpot Slot Always looking to lead the way, Microgaming took the crown for another industry first with the release of the first progressive jackpot slot – Cash Splash. This single innovative game feature secured Microgaming as one of the most-wanted software providers in the world. Today, progressive jackpot slots are highly popular, and Microgaming remains one of the best providers in the business. Did you know? Online casinos started out as single provider sites where all of the games were provided by one game creator. This later changed when multi-platform casinos were launched. ✓ 2008 – Casino Apps Arrive on the Market Jumping forward a few years, the world is very different from when online casinos first launched. Mobile devices are becoming more popular, and people look for new ways to play. Several prominent online casinos released casino apps. Clunky and slow, these apps used Flash to run online slots, which could easily crash or lose your game when the signal was low. They also required a download which took up valuable space on older model mobile devices. ✓ 2014 – Spin on the Smartwatch When online casinos realised that players wanted more ways to play, they stopped at nothing to create something new and something that would grab the attention of the masses. When smartwatches started making their way onto the scene, software providers jumped at the opportunity to create tiny versions of their most popular games. Because who wouldn't want to hit SPIN on their watch, right? Thankfully, this trend didn't really take off, and it quickly became a fun gimmick, along with being able to play casino games on your smart TV and smart fridge. ✓ 2014 – Welcome the First Bitcoin Casino In 2014, Bitcoin was just starting to become known to those outside of the world of blockchains and cryptocurrencies. In order to cash in on this rising star, Bitcasino.io was born and took its place as the first Bitcoin casino. Today, many online casinos welcome the use of cryptocurrency, while others are still wary of the volatile virtual currency. Along with the first Bitcoin casino came the ability to gamble on the blockchain, play provably fair games, and use crypto to bet and win while playing online slots. ✓ 2014 - Interactive Online Slots More than just another theme for online slots to incorporate, interactive online slots have become very popular, with almost every well-known provider releasing a video game-style creation. These games began with releases such as Castle Builder by Microgaming, where the aim is to win while doing more than just spinning reels. Instead, interactive games slam together online slots and video games for very exciting ways to land a winning combination. Fun Fact: Many players may not know this, but the first online casinos didn't offer deposits and withdrawals online. Players had to phone casino call centres and make manual deposits using a credit card machine. ✓ 2016 – Megaways Slots Take Centre Stage Invented by Australian-based software provider Big Time Gaming, the Megaways game mechanic took the online casino world by storm. This feature, which is now incorporated into more than 200 online slots, gives casino games the ability to run more than 100,000 paylines at a time. This lets players win big regularly, with multipliers on Megaways slots climbing up to 50,000x your bet. ✓ 2017 – Virtual Reality by NetEnt For many years, gamblers looked to technology as a way to increase their chances of winning. While technology can't do this, it can make playing online casinos far more exciting. In 2017, NetEnt took matters into its own hands by releasing the first VR online slot. The popular software provider took the beloved Gonzo's Quest online slot and transformed it into a VR fairytale. While VR may not be everyone's cup of tea, it still remains a fun way to play, even if only for a short time. ✓ 2017 – The Bonus Buy Feature Always aiming to stay ahead of their competition, Big Time Gaming once again released a phenomenal online slot feature. This time, the addition of the Bonus Buy feature left many punters with their jaws on the ground. You no longer have to wait for a bonus to trigger on its own. Instead, the Bonus Buy feature allows you to purchase a bonus round for instant gratification. The first Bonus Buy online slot was White Rabbit, an innovative creation that is still exciting to play. Did you know? Free spins may be the most popular form of casino bonus today, but it wasn't always an option. When online casinos first launched, rewards were almost always in the form of cash or deposit bonuses. ✓ 2020 - HTML5 Mobile Casinos After threatening for years to shut down Flash, Adobe finally bit the bullet in 2020, welcoming the era of HTML5. While HTML5 had existed for many years before 2020, the final closing of Flash games meant that online casinos were forced to fully embrace HTML5. This allows for a seamless and instant way to gamble on the go. Mobile apps are no longer required to enjoy your favourite online slot. Instead, you can load up via your mobile browser and play. ✓ 2022 - Big and Better As time goes on, the world of online slots continues to expand. Software providers are always looking for new ways to entertain users, and the fun simply continues to grow. Themes are more exciting, progressive jackpots are getting bigger by the day, technology continues to evolve, and online slots are still a favourite. With the growth of mobile technology and access to online casino games, we can only begin to imagine what the future holds. Will we finally see the release of an AR online slot? Will Bitcoin casino games grow or fall flat? One thing we know for sure is that the online gambling market will be ready to embrace, innovate and explore without missing a beat.
Gambling is a global pastime and as such comes with its own vast library of myths, legends, facts and loads of fiction. We’ve delved into these stories to bring you twelve gambling and casino facts that sound stranger than fiction. ✓Blackjack Saved FedEx from Going Under The 70s were a tough time for a struggling freight and delivery company named Federal Express. Failing to secure the $24,000 he needed to pay the company’s outstanding fuel bill Fred Smith, FedEx founder, gambled the last $5000 in the company account and won. After a successful run of luck playing blackjack Smith turned his $5000 bankroll into $27,000 saving the company. Today FedEx has an annual turnover of more than $60 billion, making it one of the biggest paydays in gambling history. ✓Card Counting is Actually Legal Despite Hollywood’s portrayal of card counting as a dubious practise the reality is that it is nothing more than an intelligence-based method for keeping track of cards. Where the confusion comes into play is that casinos will do whatever they can to maintain the house edge, especially where low margin games like blackjack are concerned, and as such remove card counters from the casino. They do so by invoking their “right of admission reserved” clause, not by citing any law or legal precedent. ✓The Playing Card Roots of Slot Machines It is not only FedEx which has a deck of cards to thank for its existence, so does the slot machine, video slot and fruit machine industry. Prior to 1890 gambling consisted primarily of dice and card-based games. Looking to spice things up a mechanic built a drum wheel and populated it with paying cards. Winning lines on this first slot machine was based on winning poker hands. The stronger the hand the higher the prize the bar would offer which included sweets, free drinks and even cigars. ✓Early Las Vegas Supported Feminism The 1920s was a powerful time for women in America, not only would they receive the right to vote but a woman would lead the charge in legalised casino ownership. The Northern Club was opened on September 5, 1920, by Mayme Stocker. Her venue offered patrons refreshments and access to the only casino games that were legal at the time, these being stud, draw and lowball poker. When Las Vegas officially began offering gambling licenses in 1931 her standing in the community saw Stocker receive the first one. ✓Las Vegas Does Not Rule the Gambling World While Las Vegas dominates popular culture and media as the epicentre of gambling the real king of the hill lies more than seven thousand miles to the East. Macau is the worlds largest gambling centre and generates more than three times the amount of revenue annually that Las Vegas does. Vegas generates annual Gross Gaming Revenues (GGR) in excess of $6 billion while Macau’s GGR can exceed $28 billion. ✓Pachinko Rolls Around Japanese Gambling Laws Japanese residents are avid gamblers however access to local land-based casinos is strictly regulated. Gambling fans are only allowed to visit a licensed casino once a week and must pay a hefty entrance fee for the privilege. However, Pachinko machines are legal as patrons purchase trays of silver balls to play with but cannot win cash from the machines, only more silver balls which can be traded in for a variety of items or prizes. On an interesting but totally unrelated note, there are always curio shops not far from the Pachinko parlours willing to buy these trinkets from lucky players for cash. What a fortunate coincidence. ✓The Great Wall of Keno While modern gambling companies are seen to donate large sums of money to local charities, programs to support the prevention of problem gambling and other honourable causes, however, this is far from being something new. Keno was invented in China during the 2nd century BC and soon became a favoured game with nobles and peasants alike. So much so that when the Great Wall of China was being built the Emperor used taxes on Keno as a way to supplement the project. ✓The Rise and Fall of Archie Karas While it is true that what goes up must come down the story of Greek gambler Archie Karas is one of the dangers of chasing wins and losses while gambling. The 1950s saw Karas go on what has become known simply as The Run, a gambling streak that saw him turn $50 into more than $40 million in less than three years. Unfortunately, his streak of luck turned sour and Karas lost it all in less than three weeks. The moral of the story is to know when to cash in your chips and enjoy your success. ✓Playing the Long Game We have all heard the tales of how skilled poker players can face off against one another over extended periods of time, however, the truth, in this case, will sound stranger than fiction. The longest recorded poker game in history was played in Arizona and began in 1881 when all was said and done more than $10 million had changed hands over a period of nearly eight and a half years! ✓A Million Dollar Lotto Lesson NN ran the story of Glenda Blackwell, who protested her husband's ongoing fascination with the lottery by buying a ticket of her own. Intended to be a lesson in the pointlessness of playing the lottery Glenda had to eat her words when her $10 Carolina Millions Scratchcard paid out a staggering $1 million! If ever there was a lesson worth learning this was one of them. ✓Craps Hall of Fame When it comes to gamblers who have defied the odds and carved out a niche for themselves in the gambling hall of fame nothing compares to tales told at the Las Vegas Desert Inn of an anonymous sailor from the 50s. As the legend goes this lone sailor made 27 consecutive winning passes while playing Craps, the odds of this astounding feat are 12,467,890 to 1. In honour of his amazing streak, the dice are on display in a glass case at the Desert Inn till today. ✓Gambling on the Go The term ‘gambling on the go’ is most often associated with mobile gambling today given the burgeoning mobile casino market, however, it is a label that perfectly fits the world’s smallest casino. Birmingham’s Grosvenor Casino unveiled their smallest gambling location in 2016, a converted local taxicab. The casino-cab features a gambling table, its own dealer, a bar, television screens for sporting events and access to online casino games. What is your favourite tall tale or unbelievable gambling fact? Create a free GamblersPick account today and share your stranger than fiction factoids in the comments section below.