The origins of online gaming are shrouded in a mystery. Who was first to market? Who wrote the code for the online casino? Who developed the first game of online poker.
We don’t have all the answers but here are some of the key players who set the roulette wheels in motion.
1. Ian Sherrington – the Sportsbook Pioneer
In 1983, computer studies student Ian Sherrington met Austrian bookmaker Detlef Train. Seven years later, on a fishing trip, they hatched a plan to use the fledgling Internet as a medium to make bets.
On January 17th, 1996, they launched the system and the world’s first online bet was made. The business rapidly took off and relocated to the Caribbean where it targeted the dormant US market.
2. Martin Moshal – the Casino Creator
At the same time that Sherrington and Train were bringing their sportsbook to the Internet, South African entrepreneur Martin Moshal was busy creating the world’s first online casino.
At one point, Microgaming was the software behind 35% of the world’s online casinos. Today, the business is more diluted and based in the Isle of Man. Moshal concentrates on philanthropic distractions, having sold his share of the business.
3. Ruth Parasol – Skins and Marketing
PartyPoker wasn’t the first online poker room but it was the one that held all the best cards. Planet Poker and Paradise Poker developed the initial software but it was Ruth Parasol and her partners that took the business into the financial stratosphere.
Canny affiliate marketing, custom skins for partners, and clever software – that really hasn’t changed much in 20 years – made PartyGaming the market leader. Since then, due to its legal withdrawal from the American market, the business has waned and is now a fraction of the size it was.
4. Mitch Garber – the Lawyer
Today, Mitch Garber is the CEO of Caesars and appears on the Canadian version of Dragon’s Den. In the 1990s, newly qualified lawyer Garber was a key mover and shaker in the online gaming business.
He handled state legislation, as well as developing online financial services. He helped set up the world’s first online sportsbook in Antigua and kept the industry one step ahead of the regulators. He was also one of the highest paid executives in the world, when he was the CEO of PartyGaming, earning an annual package worth £17 million.
5. Calvin Ayre – It’s a Brand Thang
Ayre’s contribution to online gaming is stylistic. Ayre launched Bodog in 2000 and it’s cool look and aspirational branding made it an instant hit. Ayre wrote his own code, brought the cool, and Bodog bloomed.
Ayre was true to his creation and enjoyed the life of the rock star. Always living the dream, complete with yachts, supermodels, and all the playboy trimmings. Today, Ayre dodges the feds and commentates on the industry.