Online casinos have come an extremely long way in the 25-odd years they have been around. From a handful of intrepid download casinos powered by a one of a handful of gambling software developers to the many hundreds of leading multi-platform, multi-software casinos of today, the online casino industry is barely recognisable today due largely to the impact continually evolving technology has had on the industry.
The online casinos that started running in the mid-1990s were rudimentary compared to their counterparts of today, but what they managed to do very successfully is change the way people viewed and continue to view casino games. What was once solely the domain of brick and mortar casinos across the globe have now become widely available and accessible on any internet-enabled computer or mobile device 24/7.
New and constantly evolving technology has been the main driving force behind the evolution of online casinos in many different ways and areas. For instance, the first and arguably most important of these is the internet, without which online casinos – and indeed any other online or virtual businesses and industries – would not be possible.
Although the concept and precursors of the internet have been around since the early 1960s, it wasn't until around 1995 that a commercialised form of the internet was born, spawning along with it a host of entrepreneurs and new business eager to cash in on this new technology. Back then, 56k (kbit/s) dial-up modems are how most people lucky enough to live in countries with an internet infrastructure in place connected to it.
Reliant on a traditional phone line, 56k modems were slow and unreliable but they gave people a taste of the internet and what was to come. Over the next few years single dial-up modems evolved into Multilink dial-ups, Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), Leased lines, Cable Internet, Digital subscriber lines (DSL, ADSL, SDSL, and VDSL), Fibre, Satellite broadband, Mobile broadband, Wireless, 5G, 4G and the list goes on.
As the internet became faster, more stable and more reliable, so online casinos and their offerings began to grow and evolve. Today the internet is widely available around the globe and at speeds and levels of reliability that lends itself perfectly to the online casinos of today that come loaded with hundreds of high graphic, high paying games.
The faster and more reliable the internet is, the more scope and creative freedom online casino game developers have because they are not limited by the size of their games. In other words they can load games with the boldest, brightest and most intricate HD designs, graphics and 3D animations as the internet can load these games in a matter of seconds ensuring players don't have long to wait to play them.
At the heart of every online casino is its software provider(s). These are the firms that design, develop and license casino games to online casinos, and thus play a crucial role in a casino's success or failure. There are many other aspects that determine if a casino thrives or fails, but none are more important than its game platforms because these are the very 'heart' of it, with quality and quantity being the biggest differentiators.
That's why the best i.e. most popular online casinos are populated with hundreds of best quality games from the world's top online casino software providers. These firms produce games that are easy on the eye, stable, fast and crammed with plenty of high-paying features. Most games today are produced using cutting edge technology in the form of high-end multi-platform 'instant play' programing languages like HTML5.
Some of the world's leading virtual casino software vendors include NetEnt, Authentic Gaming, Yggdrasil, Evolution Gaming, Betsoft, Spinomenal, 1X2 Network, Endorphina, Realtime Gaming, Microgaming, Habanero, iSoftBet, Playson, Playtech, Quickspin, Pragmatic Play, Amatic, Booming Games, Ezugi, NextGen, Cryptologic and Mr. Slotty.
Most of these firms produce their games in HTML5 because it's an internet browser-based programming platform that facilitate 'click to load to play' gaming as opposed to having to download and install an entire games portfolio. The idea behind instant play games is to give players an overall 'enhanced player experience' by making gaming far easier, faster, more flexible and scalable than ever before.
Collectively these i-gaming companies supply thousands of games to the best online casino sites because their games are renowned for having exemplary themes and graphics, high return to player, generous features and pay-outs, overall playability and reliability and suitability for multiple platforms. Plus most of these firms release new and more exciting games with regularity so their portfolios are constantly growing.
Thanks to technological advances, many software providers have automated backends that give their licensed casinos the opportunity to pick and choose which of their games to offer. iSoftBet, for instance uses user-friendly and flexible aggregation technology. Its Game Aggregation Platform (GAP) makes it super easy for online casinos to manage and oversee gaming content from as many as 50 different providers as well as track which of its more than 2000 games are more popular than others.
The beauty of online casino games that are developed in HTML5 is they can be accessed and played on multiple platforms from a PC and Mac to a notebook or laptop, and on any smart phone or tablet. In other words this browser-based casino game software automatically adapts to the device, its platform and its respective screen size. To put it another way, due to HTML5 technology one size truly does fit and suit all devices.
HTML5 games are designed to work on most operating systems (OS) including Microsoft Windows, Apple iOS, Google's Android, Apple MacOS and Linux. They also work on the most common internet browsers like Chrome, Safari, MS Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge and Firefox. As most modern online casino games are suited to multiple platforms, players can enjoy unprecedented casino gambling flexibility and convenience.
This is a far cry from the earliest online casinos that relied solely on Windows-based software that needed to be downloaded from the casino onto a Windows-based PC or laptop, before being installed and updated regularly. Although the 'downloadable online casino games era' came long before multi-platform technology, it left Mac users out in the cold which spawned the earliest Adobe Flash 'instant play' browser-based games.
Unlike the downloadable games, these games could be played by Mac and Windows users. Although still available at many online casinos, Flash games have for the most part made way for the superior HTML5 games that are currently then industry standard in virtual casinos. Interestingly, despite HTML5 instant play games being the norm, a handful of online casinos still offer players instant play and downloadable games.
The latter are usually preferred by 'old school' players who like to have an entire game suite installed on their computers. In terms of the overall game experience comparison between browser games and downloadable games, they are practically identical except for their delivery method. A huge leap in virtual gaming technology has ensured that the games available at top online casinos have never been faster, richer or more reliable.
As widely available, convenient, flexible and discreet as online casinos are, the biggest criticism levelled at them has always been that their games lack the vibe, atmosphere and human connection of those at land-based casinos. While most online players don't mind playing remotely in a 100% virtual environment, others crave some kind of human interaction which is how live dealer games evolved.
These are virtual casino table games that are manned by actual human dealers and then live-streamed in real time to players based all over the world. Players can place their bets as they would in a regular virtual game, but then also watch the dealer place their bets and even interact with them and their fellow players via live chat. The most popular live dealer games are Blackjack, Roulette, Hold'Em and Baccarat.
Although live dealer games have been around for some time, only in the last few years have they exploded in popularity around the globe for one reason – huge technological strides made in live streaming technology coupled with the increase in internet speeds and reliability. Between them they have created a desktop and mobile platform players can connect to in seconds and interactive with until they end their session.
Producing live dealer games is much for expensive and labour intensive than regular virtual games on account of the equipment and facilities required. For instance, like a regular brick and mortar casino, live casino games require physical space to house the bulky table games like roulette, blackjack and baccarat. Depending on the vendor, the gaming space is either rented from an existing land casino or set up in a studio.
Next a bank of reliable high-end HD-capable cameras are required to cover all of the live gaming action 24/7 and broadcast it all over the world in real time – for each and every table. Arguably the most important piece of equipment to facilitate live dealer games is the game control unit (GCU) which is responsible for encoding the live stream before it is broadcast and controlling game play from the player and dealer side.
Of course, no live dealer games would be possible without the human dealers who are highly trained and competent just as they would be if they worked at regular land-based casinos. They work hand in hand with the GCU and are friendly by nature as they are required to interact with players based all over the globe. Finally the table games used in live dealer games are the same size, spec and quality of their land counterparts.
Three of the biggest and most respected live casino game producers are Evolution Gaming, Pragmatic Play and Ezugi. While there are many others, live dealer games from one or more of these three are offered in many of the world's most frequented online casino sites because games from them are fair, reliable and hugely entertaining.
Evolution Gaming is especially prevalent, with live casino studio facilities in Latvia, Malta and Canada, and a long list of live-streamed games that include Live Roulette, Lightning Roulette, Live Blackjack, Live Baccarat, Live Dragon Tiger, Live Casino Hold'Em Live Three Card Poker, Live Caribbean Stud Poker, Live Ultimate Texas Hold'Em, Live Texas Hold'Em Bonus Poker and Live Dream Catcher.
One of the biggest technological developments in the global online casino industry in recent years has been the shift of online gaming from desktop and laptop computers to 'smart' (internet-enabled) mobile devices like phones and tablets. No longer are online gambling fans limited by desk-bound computers or Wi-Fi-enabled laptops as any smart device can be turned into a functional real money casino 24/7 at the tap of a button.
When a decade ago the major mobile phone and tablet manufacturers like Samsung, Apple and Huawei began to produce devices with more computing power and faster more reliable internet connectivity, the full potential of smart mobile technology began to reveal itself, and app producers started evolving by the second. The online casino industry was one of the first to explore the possibilities of mobile technology.
Although some casino sites invested a great deal of money and time to produce downloadable apps (predominantly for iOS-powered devices and Android-powered devices), most casino operators ultimately redesigned and relaunched their sites to be 100% 'responsive,' i.e. with the ability to adapt to whatever computer or smart device they are accessed on, and most importantly to fit to any and all screen sizes.
The result is that today players can register for a new casino account on any device or computer they choose and then use their single username and password to access the casino on any device or computer going forward for the ultimate convenience. These responsive casino sites go hand in hand with instant play HTML5 games which are by their very nature designed to be played on any and all devices and computers.
While for most online gambling fans the level of privacy, discretion and security offered by most online casinos more than meets their requirements, for others it is not enough which is where 'cryptocurrency online casinos' comes in. These are virtual casinos that either exclusively process digital coins – like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin - or accept them alongside regular payment methods and FIAT currencies.
The benefit of depositing, playing and cashing out using the technologically advanced coins like Bitcoin is that all transactions are instant and anonymous. This is ideal for players who frequent online casinos but who prefer to do so with the utmost discretion and the smallest personal 'footprint' possible. Using cryptocurrencies lets players to do just that which is why casinos are increasingly accepting them.
And there are many other benefits. For instance, transactions in digital coins are usually feeless; players don't need to divulge their identity; new player bonuses in crypto coins are known to be particularly generous, cryptocurrency-friendly games are provably fair (they allow players to prove that each and every game outcome is 100% random and thus fair), and digital coin transactions can't be blocked or interfered by governments, banks or any other financial institutions.
In short the blockchain technology that is at the centre of cryptocurrencies has made them anonymous, instant, unblockable and therefore a great fit for online casino fans seeking extra anonymity and transactional speed.
If there is one downside of technology in a virtual casino context it's that unscrupulous players try everything in their power to 'dupe' online casinos from trying to cash out new player bonuses too early to trying to launder money through their casino accounts undetected. That's why as a way to prevent this most online casinos have implemented some form of 'know your customer' (KYC) in an effort to keep dishonest players away.
Ironically, KYC doesn't involve technology but the tried and tested process of emailing a casino copies of a player's identity card or passport as well as copies of a recent utility bill (and various other documentation) to confirm their address. By implementing KYC measures before players can complete their first withdrawal, casinos 'weed out' those that are deceitful or gave inaccurate information when they registered with the casino.
While all of the technologies highlighted above are currently being utilised by the global online casino industry, there are many more that are on the cusp of entering the main mainstream. Virtual reality, for instance, is expected to make a major impact on online casino gambling in the not too distance future
Virtual reality is nothing new but virtual reality online casino games is. The concept is to immerse a player in a virtual land casino complete with all the sights and sounds of any brick and mortar casino to enhance their i-gaming experience. While the VR technology exists to give casino players a virtual experience, the catch is to experience it they have to invest in costly VR headsets which many players are unwilling to do at this time.
Perhaps when the headsets come down in cost or are sponsored by the respective VR casinos, players will be more interested in exploring this exiting technology.
To clampdown on cybercrime and beef up online security, there is a move to adapt facial recognition technology to positively identify people before they conduct financial and other transactions online, including signing up and playing at online casinos.
This would virtually eradicate underage gambling overnight and make it harder that much harder for criminals to use online casinos for nefarious purposes.