A Brief History of London Gaming
Gambling has long been alive and thriving in the city of London. From King Henry VIII, who was an avid gambler and dice player, to the eighteenth and nineteenth century aristocrats who had their exclusive gambling clubs, to current day where it is enjoyed in casinos legally. While many have enjoyed gambling, there were some who warned against it and the potential consequences it carries. In 1841 Charles Dickens wrote The Old Curious Shop, a tale that follows an old man who gambled with the best intentions but ultimately ended up losing not just his money but also his family.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries gambling in the city of London split into two distinct and different worlds – the aristocracy and the lower classes. The aristocracy attended clubs and maintained memberships to ensure gambling with fellow aristocrats. These clubs catered exclusively to wealthy men, and occasionally women (when they were not banned from the establishment). Due to the aristocrats’ high-reaching connections, it was unlikely these clubs would be shut down by the police. It was, however, far more likely that the dangerous establishments frequented by the lower classes would be shut down. In 1704, a code of behavior was created to limit the rougher, less pleasant occasional side effects of gambling, such as duels and prostitution
The Duke of Wellington, a notorious gambler, sponsored William Crockford to open London’s first casino, named after Crockford himself, in 1828. This casino still operates today as an exclusive high end establishment, keeping with the theme of the aristocrat gambling clubs from earlier days. In 1860, The Victoria Sporting Club was opened. In an effort to deftly sidestep the law of the time, the owners and patrons of the club referred to the club’s activity as “gaming”, as opposed to “horse gambling”, thus rendering themselves safe from any criminal prosecution.
Government made gambling legal on January 1st, 1961 in hopes of getting gambling off the streets, and creating more governmental control over gambling habits. Six months later, 10,000 betting shops had been set up. Within the first five years 1,000 casinos opened.
With such an increase in establishments, the British government realized they would have to create additional regulations to maintain control over the industry. From 1963 to 1970 they enacted many restrictions, including licenses and laws. Doing so has made the London casino industry what it is today, a major industry worth billions.