Today’s developers and investors in the exciting online gambling sector are standing on the shoulders of giants. With the advent of the internet in the mid-1990s, a handful of entrepreneurs had the foresight to see where opportunities for innovation lay. They utilized their natural skills and talents to launch companies that went on to earn them and many others billions of dollars.
Who were these early pioneers of online casino games that blazed a trail for others to follow? Perhaps surprisingly, Canada seems to have been a breeding ground for gambling entrepreneurs. That country has produced some of the most pre-eminent business people who have contributed to the building of an $80 billion global industry. We take a look at five men who made early strides in developing a thriving industry.
Calvin Ayre was born to farming parents in Saskatchewan, Canada and went on to start a small internet incubator in Vancouver. He soon pivoted that into a software support company for online gambling and although he licensed some of his own products to other online casinos, he saw that the real money was to be made in running his own gambling operations. Bodog was born in 2000. Ayre’s rise was meteoric and he was soon living a lavish lifestyle of yachts, models and parties. In 2006 he made the front cover of “Forbes” magazine’s Billionaire edition and made himself the pin-up for a lifestyle built on winning. Ayre definitely sold both the sizzle and the steak.
Randy Blumer was born in Canada but learned to play poker in 6th grade in Germany when his father’s work took the family there. Blumer returned to Canada to study at the University of Alberta and supplemented his student income by wagering on any number of platforms. His preferred game, though, was poker. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, Blumer went into the Canadian Navy, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander before taking early retirement to pursue his first passion, which was poker and gambling! He established Planet Poker, whose first real money game went live in February 1998 and he has become widely credited with launching poker as an online casino gaming option.
Our third Canadian in the pantheon of online gambling pioneers is Mitch Garber, a native of Montreal who trained as a lawyer. A practicing attorney for almost 10 years, Garber left law to pursue other business interests, for a while working in the then-fledgling online payments processing sector. In 2009 he joined the private investment companies behind Caesars Entertainment’s newly-created and stand-alone digital gaming and entertainment business, becoming CEO of Caesars Interactive Entertainment. Garber has worked with gambling regulators and perhaps has some of the most in-depth knowledge of the workings of the industry and we’re pretty sure he knows a lot about the history of the industry, too.
Ian Sherrington studied computer science in London in the 1980s. A keen gambler, Sherrington combined this with his computer skills and went on to write the code for the first internet sportsbook that later grew into Intertops (which Mitch Garber had a hand in setting up.) Always a disruptor, Sherrington expanded to incorporate a micro-gaming online casino and saw early on the need to integrate payment providers and so included PayPal and Neteller in his online offering. Sherrington got his first online bookmaker’s license in 1998. From London to the Isle of Man and later Antigua, Sherrington has remained in leading-edge technologies and established the Quanta Blockchain Lottery.
Nicknamed Cyber-Sol after entertainment and hospitality magnate Sol Kerzner, South African Martin Moshal is the man behind online gaming software and a large number of patents. Together with his business partner, Roger Raatgever, Moshal developed the very first online software for online casino games.
In 1998 their company Microgaming launched the online slot game Cash Splash, which was unique at the time, offering an online progressive jackpot. The game was such a success that it led to a number of large operators choosing Microgaming as their online casino software supplier. By the mid-2000s, a third of online operators were using Microgaming’s games which today include a prolific portfolio of 850 unique casino games, progressive jackpot games and many of the world’s favorite online slots, including Big Bad Wolf, Thunderstruck and the ever-popular Cash Splash. Today, Moshal is involved in venture capital and is a philanthropist running a scholarship program for South African students.
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Without these pioneering men who saw opportunities early on and seized them with both hands, we wouldn’t be able to play casino games online today. From their technical innovation to marketing skills and ability to work with others to shape the future of the online gaming sector, there would be no online sports betting, slots, online casino table games and all the other formats that we enjoy on our computers and mobile devices. If you’re looking for the best place to try your hand at online casino games, look no further than BetMGM. We have a huge collection of games for you to enjoy, from online slots and bingo to live dealer poker. Register today.