The US Online Gambling Market
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In a sense the basis for online gaming was laid when Antigua and Barbuda decided to issue licenses to online gaming companies in 1994. This created the legal framework required for the new industry. Software developers like Microgaming and Cryptologic were quick to exploit the available technology to launch online gambling sites over the Internet in the next few years. Microgaming’s first online casino was The Gaming Club and Cryptologic’s first online casino was InterCasino.
As Internet penetration increased the online casino industry began to grow. The increasing number of players allowed for greater sophistication in the software both in terms of the characteristics of the games and the administrative set up. Online slots in particular rose to prominence because of virtuosity in graphics, sound and animation. On the casino games front were developments like progressive area networks, multi player games and live games. On the administrative front were multilingual and multi currency casinos.
The one major drawback for the online casino industry was that all major software platforms operated only on Windows. This was particularly vexing in the United States, which was the hub of online gambling. A large section of Americans favored Mac and Linux operating systems and hence were unable to access online casinos. This was overcome with the introduction of Flash casino software. Flash software is also referred to as No Download or Instant Play software because it need not be downloaded and installed in the players’ hard discs. Flash casino software was compatible with Mac and Linux and this came as a relief to many American players.
While the online gambling industry flourished in America and elsewhere in the world certain steps taken by the American government began to prove a hindrance. According to the Department of Justice the huge money flows through the online gaming industry was the perfect mechanism for money laundering and something that terrorist organizations could use. Hence they activated the Wire Act of 1961, which deemed online gambling as illegal, and began prosecutions and even arrests under it. This led to several big names like PartyGaming, 888 and Neteller withdrawing from the American market. Then in 2006 the government enacted a new law called the UIGEA, which banned transfer of funds to illegal online casinos. As a result Playtech and Cryptologic, two leading software providers and their licensees closed doors on American customers. The market leader, Microgaming, followed suit in 2008.
However some software providers have decided to remain in the United States and they continue to cater to American players. The most prominent of these are Vegas Technology and Real Time Gaming. They quickly filled the space vacated by the others both in terms of new games and new online casinos. Any operator who wanted to cater to American clientele had to choose primarily from these two software providers.
The top brands of these operators are:
Real Time Gaming