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A History of London Casinos: From Victorian Gambling Dens to Modern Meccas

Since time immemorial, gambling has been deeply rooted in British society, particularly in London. In that case, write-up delves into the history of London casinos, highlighting some major changes that have shaped the city’s gambling landscape.

It discusses London’s gambling landscape in the 16th century, the era of Victorian gambling dens, and the modern meccas to give you an idea of where the history of casino gaming in London originates from and where it’s headed. Read on!

The 16th Century

In the UK, casino-style gambling dates back to the 16th century during the reign of His Majesty King Henry VIII, who was known to be an avid gambler. He liked playing dice, backgammon, and checkers in his free time.

Although the King banned gambling after realising his soldiers focused more on playing games than on fighting wars, he later put Sir Thomas Neale in charge of ensuring his table was always ready with cards, dice, and willing opponents. The official title for the King’s croupier was Groom Porter.

Neale was later put in charge of gambling operations in London by King Charles II. His duties included licensing, shutting down, and prosecuting the owners of illegal gambling spots in the city.

The Era of Victorian Gambling Dens

Casinos started flourishing in London in the 18th century due to a population increase following the city’s economic growth. London was primarily used to expand the British Empire during the agrarian revolution of the 18th century.

However, it wasn’t until the early Victorian era that gambling became more popular, with the establishment of a new wave of casinos called gentlemen’s clubs taking root. Unregulated gambling dens became widespread as well.

Often associated with the British upper class, these private and members-only social clubs played a huge role in the growth of the gambling industry in the UK. They provided conducive gambling environments for their members, which was otherwise illegal outside these facilities.

One of the reasons these exclusive clubs grew in popularity is because many associated them with a feeling of elevated status.

During this period, two types of clubs erupted: for the wealthy men called “golden hells” and lower class clubs called “copper hells”. “Golden hells” remained open mostly because businesses, promotions of political networks, and parliamentary discussions were hosted there.

Crockford’s Gentlemen’s Club became the first legal gambling establishment in London. Surprisingly, some of the clubs established during that period are still alive today. Popular gentlemen’s clubs in London include Brook’s, White’s Boodle’s, Almack’s, and The Cocoa Tree.

The Betting and Gambling Act of 1960

The Betting and Gambling Act of 1960 took effect on 1st January 1961. It saw many games of skill get legalised, including card games, bridge, and dice games.

Clermont Club became the first casino to acquire a gambling licence after this act took effect. Charlie Chester and Golden Horseshoe followed suit, establishing London as the hub for regulated casinos in the UK.

However, following the alteration of the Gambling Act in 1963 and in 1968, the number of casinos operating in London dropped drastically.

Online Casinos in London

Online gambling started around 1994, with Microgaming creating the first online casino. From the year 2000, online gambling became widespread across Europe, targeting players from European countries, including Ireland, the UK, and Malta.

The Gambling Act of 2005 also marked a new dawn for the launch of online casinos in the UK. The UK Gambling Commission was established under this act to regulate commercial gambling in Great Britain. Everything related to gambling in the UK, including online gambling and new generation gaming machines, player protection, and limit fraud, is stipulated in this act.

After its establishment, online casinos such as Lottoland and many brick-and-mortar establishments saw it as an opportunity to create internet gambling facilities to reach more customers.

William Hill, a land-based casino established in 1932, became the first gambling operator to open an online sports betting site in 1998. Their newly-opened casino was licensed in the UK, Gibraltar, and Malta.

Final Thought

Casinos have been among the main recreational activities in London for centuries. The advent of internet gambling in 1994 saw the gambling industry experience an exponential growth to become the billion dollar industry it is today. What’s more, technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are poised to continue revolutionising the overall gaming industry. As such, it’s safe to assume that online gambling is here to stay.

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