There is no official consensus on the origin of one of gambling’s most popular games – blackjack. Most believe that it originated in French casinos shortly after 1700 but there are arguments that it was first invented by the Spanish before this date and some even believe that the Romans along with roads and aqueducts brought blackjack to the world.
What we do know however is where blackjack is now and how it has advanced from a simple game played between friends to a worldwide phenomenon. It is still played in land-based casinos but it is now played by more people online than in person.
In this article, we take a look down memory lane at how blackjack has evolved from land-based casinos to the enticing world of online.
Innovation and progress
Profile any casino games in the world that you like (poker, roulette, baccarat) and you can clearly see how the rules of those games have evolved over the years to increase their popularity.
However, with blackjack, there has been little innovation and the main reason for that is the popularity of the game in its most simplistic form. Players merely have to beat the dealer to 21 or the highest possible score. Additions have been made to the game such as side bets and special odds for drawing elusive card combinations but other than that nothing has really changed.
The biggest innovations with blackjack have been seen in how and where it is played rather than its format.
1994 was the year that online gambling first came into form when Antigua and Barbuda passed the Free Trade and Processing Act which allowed licenses to be granted to organizations wishing to act as online casinos.
The very first online gambling software was developed by Microgaming in the Isle of Man and was soon used by a wide variety of companies. It wasn’t until the end of the century that online gambling properly took off though with the number of companies growing from 15 in 1996 to 2000 in 1997 with an estimated global revenue of around $800 million in 1998.
The very first games were poker and blackjack and the technology behind them was ridiculously primitive. 2D low-resolution games could be played against a dealer and no one else. The gameplay was clunky and the random generation wasn’t particularly fail-safe.
Bringing blackjack to more people
In 1999 multiplayer online gambling was introduced for the first time giving players the opportunity to communicate with each other via a basic messaging system whilst playing blackjack.
Whilst this may sound like a pretty small update by today’s standards, it was revolutionary back in 1999. Prior to that playing blackjack online had been a solitary endeavor with little to no attraction for players to continue playing after the initial buzz had worn off.
Amplifying the graphics
In the late nineties, it’s almost as if game developers were worried about the effect of the millennium bug and therefore decided not to update online blackjack offerings. However, after the turn of the millennia, the online game went from strength to strength.
As computer graphics improved so did those on blackjack games with displays moving away from boring primary colors to more appealing, sharper blends, but more was to come…
Live casino blackjack
Despite all the technological advances that had seen online casinos move from obscurity to prominence, there was still no way that online gambling could measure up to the land-based experience.
That was until live casino games were introduced to the online offerings. Now players around the world can play live blackjack with a real dealer and other players from across the globe, interacting with ease.
From desktop to mobile
Thanks to Steve Jobs and the Apple gurus in Silicon Valley, the world is now driven by smartphones with over 90% of the British public owning and using one regularly. Online casinos recognized the potential of mobile gambling and quickly developed software to bring their services to the mobile market.
These very first games allowed users to do something that had never been done before, gamble on the go. The in-built processing power of smartphones combined with their displays made the move from desktop to mobile seamless.
Whilst desktop gambling sites remain popular, the mobile market has allowed betting companies to appeal to a new market of potential customers. Those punters previously put off by the exclusivity of betting shops and casinos can now make bets from their phone, anywhere, anytime.
How popular were early online casino games?
At first, online casino games represented an element of intrigue for eager players who were keen to gamble within their own environment. However, early feedback from online casinos alerted the gambling companies to the significant problems with their offerings.
Games were incredibly clunky and difficult to use, forcing users who may be unfamiliar with PC to use a huge array of different controls to merely play a simple card game. The graphics were also incredibly underdeveloped, and this led to a chasm between land-based casino games and their online counterparts.
One of the big things as well as a lack of mobility. In the early part of the ’90s, not everyone had access to a computer and of those that did, not all had access to the internet. The market was small and relied on dedicated gamblers accessing online services from their desktop – a long way off the accessibility of today’s online casino games.
If online casinos were to make any tangible profit from the internet then they were going to have to invest a lot of money into the development of their offerings, and that’s exactly what they did.
The future for online blackjack
The online industry is always looking for new ways to adapt and the most talked advancement at the moment is virtual reality. The industry’s biggest developers and betting companies are investing heavily in software that will allow users to explore a completely interactive virtual casino.
Virtual Reality has been in the pipeline for the past 30 years, however, it finally looks like taking off with the success of traditional gaming VR headsets. One of the drawbacks of an online casino is the lack of ‘real feel’ that customers get when playing online.
If VR is introduced successfully then online casinos could soon appeal to every single gambler in the world. It could also signal the end of traditional land-based casinos, which have been struggling to compete with the industry as it is in the last decade.