London has a rich history of gambling, mainly brought into the fold by royalty as an easy form of entertainment. As the story goes, King Henry VIII was an avid casino fan, spending a lot of his free time placing bets and throwing dice, and it was him who started off thelong-term association of gambling in London that we recognise, and continue, today. At this time, London was wrought with dedicated croupiers who would conduct some of our favourite table top games just for the pleasures of royalty – a far cry from the easily accessible world of online casino offers and gaming sites that we are now so used to.
Read on to get an idea of how we’ve come from gambling being a predominantly royal activity, to the inclusive state that we find the games in today.
The 17th Century
If you’re familiar with the streets of London then you’ll recognise Sir Thomas Neale as not only a historical figure, but also a street within Covent Garden. Neale’s name is iconic on the London casino scene, as he was a well-known croupier who served King Charles II, William III and James II throughout the 17th century. In fact, when serving under King Charles II in 1684, Neale was given the task of overseeing all gambling in London, his pain duty being to shut down any illegal casino dens within the capital. Talk about a party pooper!
The 18th Century
Although Neale tried his best to eliminate all underground gambling establishments, they continued to operate throughout the 1700s, resulting in a lot of lower-class individuals boosting their bankroll and, in some cases, their class status. This was both a good and bad progression in casino history as a lot of people took things too far, and betting more than they could realistically afford. Even back then, staying within your budgetary limits was a must.
The 19th Century
Moving on, the casino culture in 19the century London was wildly diverse. Despite being a period filled with immense poverty, Londoners still found a way to place a quick bet – or two. In 1828, with the help of the Duke of Wellington, William Crockford established the first ever casino in London. Unsurprisingly, it was named Crockfords and still stands today, proudly known as the older casino in the city.
The 20th Century
London in the 1900s was largely dominated by gangs, namely the prolific Kray Twins. This gruesome pair owned shares in a popular nightspot called Esmerelda’s Barn, which turned a huge profit from hosting a variety of casino games. This bar-come-casino continued to maintain its popularity up until 1963 when it was sadly shut down, after the Krays arguably run it into the ground.
As gambling became more of a staple pastime in London, the activity was legalised in 1960, with the introduction of the Betting and Gaming Act shortly being brought into action a year later, in order to have some kind of regulation. Following the legalisation, almost 1,000 casino establishments were opened, with pubs and bars also installing fruit machines to offer up added entertainment to their punters.
The 21st century and beyond
Now onto present day, there are over 25 high-class casinos in London, taking on a whole host of different styles such as the bright lights of Vegas and more elegant, exclusive locations. Still attracting celebrities and business moguls, London sits proudly as a gambling hot spot, rich in history, as you now know!