Brief History of online casinos in the United States


In recent years, online casino games have become a popular pastime for many American players due to their accessibility and convenience. However, the history of the US online gambling market is a complex and ever-evolving story that spans over two decades.

In 2021, the US online gambling market reached $9.5 billion in revenue, with a 20% compounded annual growth rate. This incredible growth shows that the US online gambling market has come a long way since the early 1990s. However, players in states like Arkansas will need to browse for other options as it’s among the many US jurisdictions that haven’t legalized online gambling.

Here’s a look at key developments that have defined the history of online casinos in the United States.

The Early days of online casinos in the US (1990s)

The rapid rise of the internet in the 1990s set the stage for the development of several digital markets, including the development of online gambling platforms. In 1994, Microgaming set the stage for the development of the industry by launching the first digital casino software. Cryptologic and Playtech later followed Microgaming’s footsteps, while introducing improved graphics and secure transactions.

Despite the changes in technology to allow digital gambling, there were no clear regulations for online casinos. Additionally, prohibition-era laws like the 1970 Illegal Gambling Business Act and the Wire Act of 1961 raised questions on their applicability to the new form of gambling. That influenced the emergence of offshore online casinos, creating jurisdictional ambiguities.  

During the early days, the user experience was highly diminished compared to land-based gambling as most players struggled with slow dial-up internet and other technological limitations. Additionally, online casinos featured a limited game selection, aiming to replicate the land-based casino atmosphere using interfaces. As a result, random number generators (RNG) were introduced to make the games fair.

Meanwhile, online gaming communities flourished through chat rooms and forums, fostering player interaction. However, underage betting was still a major challenge despite the technological advancements and player verification was introduced. Responsible gambling measures and age restrictions were subsequently implemented.

Regulation and legalization of online casinos in the US

In recent years, online casino regulation in the US has been a hot topic that has attracted the attention of stakeholders from different states. The market’s turning point came in 2006, following the introduction of the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). The regulation made it illegal for banking institutions to process online casino transactions.

Despite this prohibition regulation, federal law gives every state the power to legalize and regulate online gambling in their jurisdictions. Nevada and New Jersey were among the first US states to legalize online casinos within their borders, paving the way for several legal milestones in the market. That includes the growing popularity of virtual poker and the legalization of online sports betting in different states like Pennsylvania.  

Landmark cases and legal battles

The United States online gambling market has always been shrouded in controversy and many legal battles. One of the most memorable online casino cases is the US vs. DiCristina, which sparked a heated debate on the definition of gambling.

Another landmark lawsuit presented itself as New Jersey attempted to legalize online casinos in 2013. The suit ended in the state’s favor in 2013, after years of courtroom battles. However, the biggest legal battle in the US online gambling market was centered on the Supreme Court’s ruling on PASPA’

The Supreme Court ruling ultimately gave every state the power to choose whether to legalize sports betting or not. These landmark legal battles have helped to shape the online casino landscape in the US today.

The introduction of responsible gambling guidelines

The implementation of responsible gambling measures is one of the biggest developments in the US online casino market. These initiatives were developed to protect online gamblers from the harmful effects of gambling addiction by creating a fair and safe gaming environment. The measures include self-exclusion programs, age verification, and collaborative efforts that assist players with gambling addiction.

Together these measures have substantially influenced the US online casino market by promoting responsible betting practices. These measures have proven essential in improving the player’s satisfaction when gambling online.

Future trends and challenges

The US online gambling market is packed with potential trends set to continue boosting the market revenue, despite different challenges. One of the biggest trends that may impact the market is the possibility of online gambling regulation across the country. If successful, that can remove several legal hurdles for digital casino operators and allow them to promote their business with greater freedom.

Another potential trend that will shape the market is the continued integration of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. That will lead to faster and more reliable transactions for online players, increasing the popularity of the market. However, several stakeholders are concerned about the social impact and ethical implications of online casinos in the US.


Online casinos in the US have become a popular pastime for millions of people, turning the market into a multi-million-dollar industry. This industry features a vast array of entertaining gaming options, including classic table games, dice games, sports betting, slots, esports, and more. However, not every state in the US has legalized online casinos.

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