Everything you need to know about the software that powers the games you love to play.
The vast majority of online casinos do not develop their games in-house. Rather, they obtain a license to use a games platform from a third-party developer. Therefore, it is the software developer who designs games and (most importantly) makes sure they are fair.
In 1996, the gambling software giant Microgaming launched the world’s first ever online casino. It was beset with technical problems: frustratingly slow loading times, endless ‘buffering’ and a lack of robust security features. It was, however, a blueprint for the future.
The real genesis of mobile gaming can be found in 2007 when the first wave of smartphones (including the original Apple iPhone) were released onto the market. This was followed in 2010 by the launch of the Apple iPad. These devices delivered faster loading times, crisper resolution, 3D graphics and, perhaps most importantly, touchscreen capabilities. The arrival of 3G and now 4G internet has created seamless player interaction, and responsive web design means gambling websites can now adjust and cater for mobile users.
In the future, mobile gambling looks set to benefit from ‘self-powered’ mobile devices, NFC-based mobile wallets and an increasing number of mobile casino apps.
Reliable software providers
The software developers listed below are known to be credible and honest, taking all necessary steps to ensure that players enjoy a secure gaming experience:
Despite forming in 1999, Betsoft are still considered the young pretenders trying to break the monopoly of the ‘big five’ casino software providers: Microgaming, Playtech, NetEnt, IGT and Cryptologic. Learn more about Betsoft here.
Cryptologic are a software application provider based in Dublin, Ireland. Learn more about Cryptologic here.
Before being incorporated by the Italian lottery company GTECH, IGT were a key player in the online gambling market. Learn more about them here.
Microgaming have acquired near-legendary status in the casino gaming market, having built over 700 unique software titles. Learn more the company here.
NetEnt (Net Entertainment) has gained a great reputation for creating the best-looking slot games on the market. Find out more here.
Playtech are best known for running the massive iPoker network, but they also power 500+ casino games. Learn more about them here.
RTG (Realtime Gaming) are an online gambling company who develop and maintain download-only casino-based software. Find out more here.
History of casino software
The first online gambling software was developed by Microgaming in 1994 and supported a handful of free-to-play virtual table games and online slots. At the time, players had to purchase a CD-ROM to download all the software necessary to play and dial-up modems made the whole process extremely slow and clunky.
It was not until 1996 that the first money wager was placed at an online casino, following the establishment of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to regulate and license online casinos. In 1997, Grand Virtual developed new gaming software that offered better, faster access to more players.
The introduction of Flash technology also resulted in a smoother, more sophisticated gambling experience. Flash did away with CD-ROMs in favour of a ‘plug-in,’ coinciding with the emergence of fast DSL internet connections.
Shortly afterwards in 1998, Microgaming launched the first linked jackpot for their Cash Splash online slot game. In that same year, Planet Poker established the first online poker client. By the end of 1998, just four years after the first casino software hit the market, over 700 real-money casinos were operating online.
When the Java platform hit the market, it totally revolutionised online gaming, allowing for instant, ‘in-browser’ play, without necessitating downloads. This also paved the way for mobile gaming, allowing gamblers to access their favourite games from a variety of smart devices.
Today, a multitude of gambling products, from virtual table games to live tables and sports books, are enjoyed by millions of online gamblers via a whole host of platforms.
Random Number Generation (RNG)
All virtual casino games use ‘random number generation’ to ensure fairness. However, the RNG designation is slightly misleading, as microprocessors are incapable of true random number generation.
In fact, online casinos commonly utilise ‘Pseudo Random Number Generators (PRNGs),’ which use an algorithm to generate a long stream of numbers to produce outcomes that are entirely pre-determined, resulting in a set ‘pay-out percentage.’
The most widely used PRNG algorithm in online gambling is the Mersenne Twister. This algorithm was developed in 1997 by Makoto Matsumoto and Takuju Nishimura and can produce sequences of numbers that are 219937 digits long.
While this system would appear to be fool-proof, a crooked casino game could contain a piece of code that recognises when a player has won and deliberately display incorrect information. Say, putting the ball in the 7 slot rather than the neighbouring 29 in roulette.
A number of organisations, including eCOGRA, independently audit the pay-out percentages of games based on PRNGs. They determine whether the numbers are in line with published odds and inspect software and numeric sequences for any hint of cheating.
A number of software developers have started providing access to live casino tables via the internet, using cameras and data-streaming technology.
Live gambling has proven extremely popular with players, due to the assurance of seeing physical cards, wheels and balls operating under tangible conditions. By contrast, many gamblers liken virtual games to ‘playing with invisible dice.’
In the case of live games, chance, gravity and mass replace random number generators. However, virtual software is still used to distribute winnings.
Some casinos provide auto-roulette games, which involve a live wheel, but no dealer. In this case, PRNG software is used to generate ‘randomised’ bursts of compressed air that control the momentum of the wheel and the cast of the ball.