It is commonly accepted that gambling has its roots in the Mesopotamian era, as historians believe that a six-sided dice found in the region was crafted around 3,000 BC.
While the earliest forms of gambling were primitive and would likely be scoffed at today, the pastime has evolved vastly as new technological advancements have been made.
Modern gamblers are spoilt for choice, from visiting the latest casino resorts to gambling from anywhere via the many online and mobile casinos. Below, we’ll look at how technology has evolved gambling and where this evolution may lead to in the future.
Slots are one of the most common forms of gambling in casinos and online, but the origins of the humble slot machine are far removed from what we know today. Despite this, they contained some impressive innovations that made them famous.
The Liberty Bell, the world’s first slot machine, was developed in 1894 by Charles Fey. It used three drums, each of which held five symbols, and had a lever that the player had to pull to get the slots to spin. Although the entire action of gambling using the machine was mechanical, the slot did feature some impressive technology at the time.
Unlike a slot developed by Sittman and Pitt a few years later that used five reels, each hosting ten symbols, the Liberty Bell’s lower number of winning combinations supported an automatic payout system.
While this automatic payout system could read winning reels, it wasn’t very efficient, and human intervention was sometimes needed. However, in 1963, Bally, which later became a household casino brand in the US, changed the slot game entirely with the release of a slot called Money Honey.
The slot was the first-ever electromechanical game that supported a payout of up to 500 coins without human interaction. It also introduced a bottomless hopper, which soon became a standard feature.
A few years after Bally revolutionized the gambling industry, the Las Vegas-based Fortune Coin Co. again shook things up by employing a new technology: computing power.
When the company decided to apply the newer, faster, and smaller computing power available in 1976 to a slot machine, the first video slot was born.
Using a standard display (in this case, a Sony Trinitron), the slot held no mechanical components and was run purely by an onboard computer. This computer was loaded with the graphics of the game and an algorithm to help the machine make an unpredictable spin each time.
Trialed in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, the slot was a massive hit, leading to an avalanche of video slots hitting the market. These enjoyed several years of success but changed again in the 1980s.
Random number generators were introduced as a newer technology to help slots generate spin results. This breakthrough technology made these slots fairer, with better odds of winning, and became a standard in all slot machines, including those available in physical and online casinos today.
In the same decade—in 1986, to be exact—the first progressive jackpot slots were launched. Megabucks, developed by International Game Technology, incorporated networking technology into their video slots, allowing them to speak to each other.
This networking of slots not only introduced new jackpots that reached heights never before seen—and still paying out incredible prizes today—but also made it easier for casinos to manage and secure their games.
The Move Online
With video slots capturing players’ hearts (and pockets), the next giant leap in gambling evolution was moving online. The first online casino appeared in 1994, just shortly after the public launch of the Internet. Around the same time, the first online lottery and sportsbook were also launched.
Although many players were initially skeptical about gambling online, the technology behind online casinos quickly drew people in. Online casinos could cater to hundreds of games because they were not limited to physical space. Developers were quick to make these available, boosting the industry further.
Within a few years, hundreds of online casinos that used internet technology to connect players to their servers were available. Players could register accounts, deposit and withdraw funds, and play their favorite casino games.
And it wasn’t just slots they were playing, as software providers also developed many table games for gamblers who didn’t like spinning reels. In 1998, attempts were made to launch multiple live casino games. However, these fell short of the expectations associated with them.
By the 2000s, however, video streaming technology had advanced rapidly, and fast, stable internet connections had become commonplace in households. This led to reworking live casino games, of which Evolution Gaming (now Evolution) was at the forefront. These games allowed players to play alongside other players in real time with a live video feed of dealers.
The Future of Gambling
While online gambling evolved into mobile gambling during the early 2000s thanks to the launch of iPhone and Android-based smartphones, further developments mostly improved existing systems—at least until the launch of Bitcoin and other crypto betting sites.
Developers responsible for creating captivating games worked tirelessly to innovate and create new games. At the same time, casinos applied the latest innovations to their websites and physical locations to enhance the gambling experience.
The industry continued at a steady pace of development until the mid-2010s, when VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) burst onto the scene. Though slow to become mainstream, these technologies now have countless people playing and developing them behind the scenes.
Not to be left behind, the gambling industry also quickly picked up on the popularity of this technology and began incorporating it into gambling. Many believed this technology would lead to a massive change in the industry, from virtual reality casinos to slot machines that appeared in your living space via AR.
Change did occur in this regard, with many developers, including NetEnt, working on VR projects. However, the practicality of requiring VR equipment and the slowdown of interest in the industry put a slight pause on this, and this evolution was replaced by something else—AI (artificial intelligence).
AI, which has developed at an incredible pace since the end of 2022, has already been widely adopted by the gambling industry. From using players’ likes and dislikes to recommend games to expanding security systems and helping make sports betting predictions, it has helped improve the gambling experience for all players. With continued development in this field, AI seems to be the next significant evolution in gambling and could lead to an entirely new way to experience the pastime in the future.