Estonia’s Online Gambling Success Story – The History of Playtech

  • 2022-05-25

Estonia is certainly a country with many success stories in the IT sector. From Skype to more start-ups popping up than in any other European country, the Baltic country casts a longer shadow than its small size and population might imply. Looking at the history of Playtech, however, singles the company out as a global phenomenon.

Playtech games can be found on some of the best online casino sites on the planet. The company dominates multiple casino verticals, including virtual and live-dealer gambling. How did this happen? What springboarded a small Tartu-based team to such heights?

Let’s look over Playtech history and see how it all came to be.

The Founding of Playtech

The presence of Playtech slots and games seems to be almost a given with top online casinos. As you can see on this list of top Playtech casinos by CasinosOnline, there are quite a few of them, and they’re far-reaching world operators. This wasn’t always the case, though. Playtech started out in 1999 in Tartu, just as online gambling was heading into a boom.

To understand the history of Playtech, we have to set the context first. The late 90s were an important time for online casinos, which were turning out to be potentially massive. They were still tiny compared to traditional venues, though. More importantly, the online gambling market in 1999 was a bit of a wild west.

First of all, online gambling in the USA was still perfectly legal – and would be until 2006. This gave new companies a potentially massive market in a country that was going through digitalization faster than most others. Besides, the country in which Las Vegas lies has a long history of loving casinos.

More interestingly, there was a general lack of regulation across the globe. Online casino sites were still new, any regulation of the internet was non-existent, and most casino software providers were startup wild cards.

Most of Playtech’s competition did business with whomever, whenever. Scam sites, shady casinos, illegal platforms – most casino software providers took on any casino they could.

Not Playtech, though. Their software was expensive, and getting a partnership was hard.

As time went on, these shady sites quickly went under – and often took their accomplices with them. Playtech, on the other hand, continued to build a reputation of integrity and quality.

Conquering the World

When Israeli-born Teddy Sagi first founded Playtech in 1999, it was a small team of software experts.

In 2001, they launched their first products. Many were an instant hit, but slots aren’t the end. The early 2000s were a time when internet Poker was also on the rise. Playtech wisely capitalized on the idea in 2004 when they launched the iPoker network. It was an instant hit, with thousands of potential poker pros flocking to the platform.

That’s the story of Playtech in a nutshell. They spot an opportunity and develop a solution that’s simply a cut above the rest.

By 2006, Playtech from Tartu moved to the London Stock Exchange. At this point, they were valued at almost $1 billion and were seen as one of the leaders of the burgeoning industry. Attracting new partners, securing new licenses, and ever-increasing investment capital – Playtech was riding a wave of its own success.

Obstacles and Current State

The biggest hurdle the Playtech casino software provider had to overcome came in 2006. The infamous Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act was passed in the US, effectively banning all remote gambling. Playtech share price plummeted 40% in a single day.

For its part, the now London-based company took it on the chin. Instead of slumping to lick its wounds, Playtech went on a buying spree. Many of their smaller competitors were on the verge of failure thanks to losing the US market. This allowed Playtech to acquire them for cheap, consolidating their presence.

As a result, Playtech games soon had their finger in every pie in the industry. Slots, poker, bingo, the emerging live casino vertical – they started overtaking the competition on all corners.

This rise continued to this day, where Playtech and its subsidiaries such as Playtech NZ hold a leading role. In a few numbers, Playtech boasts:

- Almost 6,500 employees globally.

- Offices in over 24 countries.

- 170+ global gambling licenses.

- A stable position as one of the LSE’s 250 biggest companies.

From a gamer’s perspective, Playtech has incredible versatility. They’re perhaps not the biggest name in live dealer gambling – but they’re certainly among the top 3. Playtech slots are not the most successful – but they’re certainly up there. The same is true for bingo, poker, and more.

What Playtech History Can Teach Us

The success of this company can be understood as one of the byproducts of Estonia’s impressive computerization. However, it’s also a testament to how profitable navigating volatile markets can be. If you’re successful, that is.

Online gambling companies were never the safest of investments. The United States’ 2006 ban is indicative – it’s a heavily regulated market, and things change in a heartbeat. However, with the right mix of ambition and foresight, even catastrophes can be turned into success. The success of Playtech can be attributed to the company’s greatest fall in 2006, after all.