The face of internet gambling has changed radically in its short history. It began in earnest back in 1994, when government legislation passed in Antigua and Barbuda allowing gambling licenses led to the formation of many companies in the country, all hoping to take advantage of the new, more relaxed laws. Even today, many large gambling companies operate out of the Caribbean islands.

The first internet gambling companies offered traditional casino style games; roulette, blackjack, slots and the like. Cryptologic’s InterCasino is thought to be the first online casino to accept a wager using real money, back in 1996.

Next, the online punter was offered online sports betting, then virtual slot machines, with progressive jackpots. Internet poker soon followed, the popularity of which was massively boosted in 2003, when Chris Moneymaker took down the World Series of Poker Main Event, having initially qualified online. Bingo on the internet is proving very popular too.

So what direction will internet gambling take next? It seems that the latest innovation is virtual scratch cards, which have really taken off during 2009, partly due to already established websites like Betsson adding them to their online gambling repertoire. It’s exactly like the scratch cards you can pick up in your local shop, but with more interaction and without the need to leave the house or rummage in your pocket for a coin.

There are now dedicated scratch card sites, offering nothing but quick and simple to play games. The appeal of the scratch card is understandable – they are very quick to play, so even the busiest of players can join in. They are also really easy to understand, more so than the likes of poker, or craps, so anyone can jump straight in and gamble and they offer great rewards, potentially much bigger than other fast paced games like virtual slots, with millions to be won. Usually, one in three cards features some sort of prize, which appeals to the gambler looking for action.

Many dedicated scratch card websites offer generous incentives to new players, such as Hopa.com, who offer newcomers a free £5 to play with without even requiring a deposit. Should the player wish to play with their own money, a 100% deposit bonus (up to £200) is available. In other words, deposit £200 and find £400 in your account!

It remains to be seen exactly how popular this internet gambling niche will become, but it is an area which is developing quickly and it does provide the online punter with another fun and convenient option.