We need to realize that gambling has influenced the Internet as much as the Internet has influenced gambling. The continual pressure of competition drives constant improvement. There is a constant race to get a better “look and feel” for online craps and slots, and increased capabilities of player/avatars for online poker. Games that were once content with 2D cartoons – blackjack or baccarat – now feature live dealers, and live video feed is the standard for horse betting online. At every level, gaming software and programming are generating a new demand for bandwidth, storage and computing power – which helps to push the technology forward. Gambling, all in all, has had a beneficial effect on the Internet.
From its inception in 1995 until just recently, Internet gambling has quietly flourished without having too much to do with regulatory regimes of any kind. Because it began on a small scale, it took time to build up to a level that would attract official attention. And, like the Internet itself, Internet gambling was able practically to leap into existence, building on an existing telecommunications infrastructure which already combined worldwide reach with deep market penetration, particularly in the developed world. But these initial conditions are rapidly giving way to a new reality. First, the days when online gambling could avoid scrutiny by “flying beneath the radar” are now drawing to a close. Internet gambling is now a global industry, predicted to grow past $30 billion annually by 2012 – quite possibly more if formats and markets heretofore closed were to be opened and liberalized. An industry that is once again exploring the possibility of IPOs on the London stock market has little hope of “hiding between the cracks” much longer. Morever, such an approach is of no use anymore. Global markets in an entertainment-based industry cannot be accessed, nor their global profits made, in secret.