Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Online casinos first appeared in the mid-1990s and a number of brands tried to claim they were the first. We've already written about the world's first land-based casino, but we had to do some research to answer the question, who or what was the first online casino.
Development of the first casino software
To run an online casino, you need online casino software - and that's where we start.
1994: Microgaming develops the first casino platform
According to their company history, Microgaming developed the first online casino software in 1994. However, casino management and player tracking tools weren't launched until 1995, which means there was still no fully functional commercial online casino product in 1994.
1995: Cryptologic Join the race
On their heels were brothers Andrew and Mark Rivkin who developed a secure online financial transaction system in 1995 and founded a company now known as Cryptologic (formerly Inter.tain.net Inc). Looking for a real-world application from their idea, they started developing some online casino software. A subsidiary known as Wagerlogic was founded to license the software and also to manage player support. Financial transactions were performed by the company's payment processor, Ecash.
The first casinos: InterCasino and Casino.co.za
Now that both companies have a viable platform for running an online casino, the first online casinos have made an appearance. Before Cryptologic Software, the brand was InterCasino while Microgaming launched The Gaming Club. But who came first?
Casino.co.za was the predecessor of The Gaming Club (1996 or earlier)
It should be noted that Microgaming has chosen their words carefully, referring to The Gaming Club as "the first online casino launched alongside Microgaming software". During our research, we found another online casino offering Microgaming games that existed as early as 1996 (archive) - we can't say for sure when the site launched as archive.org only in 1996.
So what was the first online casino?
Obviously, the two contenders for the first online casino are InterCasino and The Gaming Club, and both companies claim this title, but who is right? The answer really boils down to how an online casino is defined.
We don't have the exact launch date of casino.co.za, but we were able to find traces dating back to March 1996. Unfortunately, we can't verify when the domain was first registered as it has since been deleted and registered. again and therefore has a much more recent registration date.
It is possible that the site was launched in 1994, which is why Microgaming refers to this website when referring to its first casino, which was founded in 1994. Since there is also evidence that casino. co.za became gamingclub.com, this confirms their claim that The Gaming Club was founded in 1994, albeit under a different name.
This means that The Gaming Club was probably the first site to offer online casino games for real money (as casino.co.za and only in South Africa), although payments have were not made online and had to be handled manually. Therefore, some might say that it was not a full-fledged online casino.