Mobile Gambling: The History and Rise of Gambling on the Go

December 5th, 2018

The history of mobile gambling is a bit longer than a lot of people might think.

Mobile technology has changed how businesses operate and how consumers spend their cash. Here’s a remarkable statistic: in an average week, most people pick up their mobile device a staggering 1,500 times. So it’s no wonder that commerce is tapping into this extraordinary potential customer base; there is expected to be 2.5 billion smartphone users worldwide in 2019.

The proliferation of Wi-Fi connections in private and public spaces, as well as the improvements in 4G/5G technology, mean that we can stay connected with ease. And contemporary phones and tablets, which can handle high-resolution graphics courtesy of their super-fast processors, have provided incredible opportunities for gaming firms to get their products into customers’ pockets.

The mobile gaming industry was worth more than $21 billion back in 2015, and that figure has grown exponentially since then. And in 2017, the UK Gambling Commission reported that the proportion of people gambling on mobile devices rose to 43%.

So today, gamers are spoilt for choice when it comes to gambling on mobile, but of course it wasn’t always that way, as this timeline attests.

Casino gaming heads online (1994)

Back in 1994, the internet was very much in its infancy as far as widespread adoption is concerned, but that didn’t stop one forward-thinking company jumping ahead of the curve.

Microgaming, who remain one of the most innovative slots and table game developers to this very day, was the very first brand to bring a playable online casino to the market. To the modern eye that would look very clunky and old hat, but at the time it was revolutionary, and paved the way for a whole new expansion plan for bricks-and-mortar casinos looking to boost their revenue.

And it wasn’t long before the first dedicated online casinos were established...

Snakes on a phone (1997)

The mid-90s were an important technological era for many reasons, and the development of mobile phones was one such area to show immense progress.

Far from the days of holding a handset the size of a house brick to your ear, in the 1990s firms like Nokia began to produce devices that looked great and worked like a charm. Nokia's landmark 3210 model featured the game Snake, a 2D adventure in which players had to negotiate their character’s passage around the screen without bumping into themselves.

It sounds confusing, but was actually devilishly simple, and was a genuine ‘wow’ moment in the progress of mobile gaming.

Apples and apps (2007)

After testing the water a few times, Apple finally hit the market with its first iPhone in 2007. That in itself was revolutionary, but the key from a gambling perspective was the creation – and subsequent popularity – of apps.

Now, gambling operators could offer a dedicated platform for their players that included all of their casino games, sportsbooks, poker and so on in one place. Punters could deposit into their account using their device and were not reliant on web browsing to place their bets – a huge ‘Eureka!’ moment for the industry.

Better, faster, stronger (2011)

Without wanting to get too ‘techie’, another key point in the evolution of mobile gambling came when HTML5 replaced Flash as the predominant web standard.

Why? Because it supports the delivery of high-quality graphics, and streamlines page loading times etc, much better than its predecessor, Flash, ever could.

And so software developers were able to create cool features into their casino games, such as video graphics and bonus rounds, that have pushed the industry to the next level once again.

Here’s to the future?

So, what does the future hold? We can only speculate – remember, they thought hoverboards were going to be a thing just 30 years ago – but we suspect virtual reality might be the next frontier for mobile gambling.

Live dealers in your living room? It’s a distinct possibility.