The world wide web is an entirely different beast compared to what it was in the early 2000s in the years that followed the dot-com bubble (and its subsequent crash). In just a short space of time, a whole host of slot sites began to pop up, offering keen gamblers the opportunity to play poker, casino games and most notably online slots. 

That being said, there are significant differences between the slot sites back then and the slot sites we see now. This article will take a deep dive into some of the popular sites of the day back in the early-to-mid 2000s, drawing comparisons with their modern-day counterparts.

Whilst the end-game is always the same for both operators and players, the methods used for acquiring new customers, the games on offer, payment methods and even the way games were launched were completely different to today, we’d almost go as far as to say that everything back then is completely alien when you really look at it.

Using the Wayback Machine, a website that has archived millions of web pages since the mid-1990s we’ve been able to step back in time and take a look at some snapshots of the most popular slot sites of the day, analysing what exactly was different about them.

The slot sites we analysed were (which later became Party Casino), and, the latter two sites still exist under the same names today. The snapshots we viewed of Starluck were taken in 2003, 888 in 2005, and the snapshot of Spin Palace is from 2007, a year when online slots began to really take off. 

Design – Animated GIFs, simple navigation and dollar bills

It almost feels redundant to talk about the differences in site design and how things have changed over the last 20 years because like any element of design, trends come and go, methods have evolved and sites have naturally become cleaner and much easier to use.

But it would be wrong not to take a nostalgic look back at how they looked… Because boy did they look different! Back then operators attempted to squeeze every speck of information they possibly could onto the casino homepage, this was ultimately done to make the player’s transition from brick and mortar gambling to online gambling as simple as possible.

You have to remember that many people were still learning how to use a computer for the first time in their lives. If something seemed too complicated for a first-time PC user then they were ultimately going to leave the site and go straight back to a real casino.

One notable thing that deserves a mention is the use of animated gifs and game images. Back then sites featured a lot of moving parts to grab the users attention such as carousels that showed screenshots of familiar casino games and animated gifs and buttons urging players to click sign up and play ASAP.

There was a real sense of urgency around converting potential players into full-time customers in the early days, and truth be told, we don’t think that’s particularly changed much over the years, the only difference is operators are more subtle today than they were back then. 

Welcome bonuses – How did slot sites entice new players?

Speaking of urgency, we all know that slot sites use generous welcome bonuses to encourage new players to sign up with them, and it’s interesting to see exactly what was on offer back then, as there were some bonuses that certainly caused us to raise an eyebrow.

Spin Palace’s main welcome bonus saw players receive an eye-watering £1,000 in free cash to spend with no deposit required whatsoever, they were then given 1 hour to spend as much money as they possibly could before the time ran out (or their funds).

Once they’d made more than 100 bets and won £20 (or more) they could transfer the funds to their casino account and make a withdrawal (on the condition that they deposit £50). 

Starluck Casino and 888 Casino offered players standard cash bonuses upon making their very first deposit, keeping it nice and simple. No signs of any intricate free spins just yet.  

Accessing games – Ordering or downloading bespoke software

This might actually blow the minds of some younger readers, but back in the early 2000s players were not able to simply type a website into the search bar, sign in to their account and start playing their favourite games, oh no, it was more complex than that in some cases.

Early on players had two options, they could either download and install casino-specific software that allowed them to play their games, or they could order a free CD that would be sent via post, this CD contained the software that allowed players to sign in and play! 

Ff connection speeds weren’t an issue then the download was the natural choice for players keen to get playing right away. For most though, the infamous dial-up connection was the only option and so there were plenty of CDs making their way through the post!

Game choice – Dozens of online slots on offer!

As you can imagine, the choice of online slots on offer back in the early 2000s wasn’t exactly groundbreaking! Starluck offered ‘dozens’ of online slots whilst 888 had 15 in total. 

Spin Palace, a site that specialised in slots, had quite a generous selection of games that included 3-reel slots, 5-reel slots, feature slots, bonus slots, MegaSpin slots and Progressive slots. The two featured slots at the time were branded titles Tomb Raider™ and HITMAN. 

In addition to the above, each slot site heavily promoted classic table games such as blackjack and roulette as well as video poker. Notably, all three sites had a very strong focus on progressive jackpot slots such as Mega Moolah and Major Millions. 

This hardly comes as a surprise as their progressive jackpot prizes drive people to play in the hopes of winning life-changing amounts with a single big win. 

Slot sites in 2021 – Has much changed since the early 2000s? 

All of the casinos we looked at still remain in operation today, however, Starluck Casino has since become Party Casino. Speaking frankly, having examined their current-day counterparts, there’s only been a small handful of changes over the last twenty years, albeit huge ones.

Obviously, the biggest change for these three casinos (and everyone else) is the fact that sites have received multiple facelifts over the years in line with advancements in technology. These slot sites all boast greater usability and have a much larger focus on the games on offer, as opposed to just throwing GIFs all over the site and displaying a wall of information at players.

Downloadable casinos and CDs are naturally a thing of the past, all games are now developed in HTML5 even long before Flash reached the end of its life-cycle on December 31, 2020.

Welcome offers are much more flexible today and operators are giving players so much more than just standard bonus cash, with free spins, no wagering free spins, matched deposit bonuses, cashback as well as so much more.

Ultimately, rather than see widespread sweeping changes (other than in a regulatory sense), most online slot sites have just leveled up over the years, becoming sleeker and more user-friendly, featuring a much broader range of online slot and casino games. 

This piece was authored by P P .