Online casinos first appeared some time in the mid-1990’s, and a number of brands have tried to lay claim that they were the first. We did some digging in an attempt to answer the question “who or what was the first online casino”.
To run an online casino, you need online casino software – which is where we will begin. According to their company history, Microgaming developed the first online casino software in 1994. However, the casino management tools and player tracking systems were not launched until 1995 implying that a fully functioning commercial online casino product was not, in fact, around in 1994.
Nipping at their heels were brothers Andrew and Mark Rivkin who, in 1995, developed a secure online financial transaction system and founded a company now known as Cryptologic (formally Inter.tain.net Inc). Seeking a real world application of their brainchild, they set about developing some online casino software. A subsidiary, known as Wagerlogic, was set up to licence the software, and to also handle player support. Financial transactions were carried out by the companies payment processor, Ecash.
With both companies now having a viable platform to run an online casino, the first branded online casinos made their appearance. For Cryptologic Software, the brand was InterCasino whilst Microgaming launched The Gaming Club. But who came first?
On their website, The Gaming Club carries the tag line “established in 1994” – the same year that Microgaming had developed their software. However, according to Microgaming, The Gaming Club was not launched until 1998. In addition to Microgamings claim, the who.is record for gamingclub.com lists the domain being first registered on 1997-04-17.
It should be noted that Microgaming chose their words carefully, referring to The Gaming Club as “the first online casino to launch in collaboration with Microgaming software”. During our investigation we found another online casino that offered games provided by Microgaming which was around back in 1996 (archive).
The casino was exclusively for South African players and simply called casino.co.za (the website has long since gone and been replaced by an online gambling portal). Players who wanted to wager real money had to phone the casino to get an account number and password, and deposits were taken via credit card over the phone. You can see a snapshot of the site using the way back machine:http://web.archive.org/web/19960311072651/http://www.casino.co.za/
Although as yet unconfirmed, it appears as though casino.co.za became The Gaming Club, and there is evidence on the casino.co.za website from 1997 to support this. The acquisition or renaming of casino.co.za may explain the claim made by The Gaming Club that they were established in 1994.
Cryptologic announced completion of Intercasino Beta 1.00 (archive) on their company website (archive) on 4th July of 1996 (our american friends may see the irony in this date given the recent events surrounding online gambling in the USA). In the statement they claim:
“InterCasino is a client server application which allows users to connect from anywhere around the world, via the Internet, and gamble for real money. InterCasino is the first application of its kind.”
We do not have the exact date that casino.co.za launched, but we have been able to find footprints going as far back as March 1996. However, due to the restricted use of the site and limited banking, Cryptologics statement could well be accurate – making InterCasino the first viable online casino brand.
How the Intercasino and Gaming Club websites looked back in 1996/1997
Clearly the two contenders for first online casino are InterCasino and The Gaming Club, but which actually came first is up for debate. From our research we have identified that The Gaming Club was the first site to offer online casino games for money (under the name casino.co.za and only in South Africa) and InterCasino was the first site to offer online casino games on a global scale whilst simultaneously offering secure remote banking.
As for answering the question “who was the first online casino”, that all depends on your definition of an online casino.