The global gambling market is simply massive and has been spurred on by increased internet penetration coupled with an ocean of online gambling websites being set up around the world. According to the data compiled by, the global gambling market gross gaming yield has risen at a steep but mostly steady rate from $220 billion in 2001 to $495 billion by 2019. However, in the United States, the entertainment medium hasn’t enjoyed an easy ride to the mainstream market and has only recently become accepted in multiple states. Now, many people in the US can play online gambling games at their leisure, with more jurisdictions likely allowing brands to offer their services to its residents in the near future. But why has it taken so long for America, the home of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, to get into online gambling?

It all started in the Caribbean

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When you think of the gambling hubs of the world, your mind wanders to the likes of Sin City, Atlantic City, London, Macau, and even Paris, but the ever-expanding realm of online gambling all started in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. In 1994, the country passed the Free Trade and Processing Zone Act, detailed here at, which paved the way for operators to apply for a license and open an online casino. Over in the Isle of Man in that same year, a company called Microgaming created the first functional real-money online casino games, secured by CryptoLogic to enable safe transactions online. The first online casino was subsequently opened in 1994, called The Gaming Club.

A couple of years on, in 1996, North American moves were being made to establish an online gambling scene on the continent. Mohawk Territory’s Kahnawake Gaming Commission came into force 23 years ago, establishing a body that would also license online casinos and regulate the industry within its jurisdiction. Many more operators joined the booming industry, with the number of online gambling websites jumping from just 15 in 1996 to over 200 in just one year. More Canadian territories established themselves as regulatory bodies, with the nation’s fairly liberal attitude proving to be very profitable. However, down south, the sentiment towards gaming online was the opposite.

Troubles in the US

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Attempts from the US to stop free trade agreements with Antigua and Barbuda regarding online gambling being offered to its citizens were thwarted in 2004 by the World Trade Organisation, which appeared to make the US double-down on stopping its people from playing games online. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to prohibit gambling businesses from accepting bets through the internet. It was a major stumbling block for online gambling, which would lead to multiple actions against online gaming heads and activities which appeared to sit in something of a grey area.

What was United States’ loss became the United Kingdom’s gain, with the UK government enacting the Gambling Act to legalize online gambling as well as apply stringent rules for licensing and regulation. In the ensuing years, online gambling flourished in the UK and across Europe, with the UK Gambling Commission championing a regulated space for the industry. Other nations like Malta have also joined to provide further regulation and room for growth.

Over in the US, however, challenge after challenge was raised by American legal bodies against online gambling products such as online poker. The repeated suits against big brands culminated in what is now known as the Black Friday of poker. US authorities issued indictments against some of the biggest online poker owners in the word, pumping the breaks on the budding industry. However, in 2012, a federal judge of New York, Jack Weinstein, ruled that poker shouldn’t be ruled under federal gambling laws and was a game of skill, as reported by After this revelation, the fortunes of online gambling in the US slowly started to turn around.

Bouncing back in the USA

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One year after poker was ruled as a game of skill and not of luck and gambling, the states of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware allowed online gaming to go live within state lines. This gave operators the chance to not only capitalize on the gambling-centric persona of their new hosts, but also make the most of the high adoption of smartphones, tablets, and laptops in these US states. To deliver the casino-feel to their customers, platforms like hosted hundreds of slot games alongside classics like roulette, video poker, baccarat, and blackjack. As these platforms developed alongside technological innovations, they began to utilize the connectivity of the platform with games like progressive jackpot slots.

In 2015, many casino owners backed efforts to legalize the online gaming space across the US, but the campaign stalled. In 2016, when Pennsylvania attempted to join the likes of New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada as a legalized state for online gambling, the last scheduled session day of the Senate came and went before they could reach a consensus. In 2018, however, persistent campaigning spearheaded by New Jersey led to sports wagering being legalized across the country at each state’s discretion, leading to a slew of jurisdictions allowing sports betting. More states have also been able to legalize online casino gaming in recent years, with it now being permitted in Iowa and, finally, Pennsylvania, as well as the original three states.

While online gaming isn’t regulated across the entirety of the continent-spanning nation that is the United States, there has been sufficient movement to suggest that more states will begin to accept the popular entertainment medium in the years to come.

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