It should come as no surprise that London has a rich history with gambling – casino culture having been originally introduced by the royal family, as a form of entertainment. In fact, rumour has it that King Henry VIII was an avid casino fan, who went on to introduce the pastime to his fellow royals and, in turn, the rest of London. As the interest in gambling grew, this began to form the long-term association of casino gaming and London that we recognise, and enjoy, today.
With for the popularity of gambling facilities on the rise, it was around this time that croupiers were in high-demand, needed to conduct games and keep things flowing. These days, thanks to the wonders of online casino for UK players, the demand for dealers isn’t as urgent, with your favourite games just a single click away!
If that’s piqued your interest then, first of all – we don’t blame you – and secondly, you’re in luck, as we’re about to take you on a whistle-stop tour of the history of casino gaming in London.
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Sir Thomas Neale is an iconic name on the London casino scene, mainly due to the fact that he was a well-known croupier who served King Charles II, William II and James II throughout the 17th century. Taking on an even more prominent role in the running of casino-based activities throughout London, when serving under King Charles II in 1684, Neale was given the task of overseeing all gambling in London. When operating in this position, his main duty was to shut down illegal casino dens that would pop up within the capital, presumably by “commoners” who wanted a piece of the action.
Fun Fact: If you know your way around the streets of London then you may recognise Sir Neale as not only a historical figure, but also a street in the Covent Garden area.
Despite Sir Neale trying to eliminate all underground gambling establishments, these casino dens continued to operate throughout the 1700s – sometimes leading to lower-class individuals finding their way into upper class social circles.
This was both a good and bad progression in the history of casino gaming in London. The bad aspects come from players becoming over-excited at the prospect of finally being able to participate in casino culture and overspending as a result. It would seem that even in the 18th century, staying within your budgetary limits was essential!
Moving onto 19th century London, and the gambling scene was significantly different. Despite being a period of immense poverty, the local people still found a way to continue placing bets as a form of entertainment.
By 1828, with the help of the Duke of Wellington, William Crockford established the first ever casino building in London. Taking on his own name – Crockfords – the casino still stands today, and is proudly known as the oldest gaming establishment in the city.
London in the 1900s was dominated by gangs, one of the most famous pairings being the prolific Kray Twins. This gruesome twosome owned shares in the popular nightspot called Esmerelda’s Barn, which doubled up as a venue for a variety of casino games. Despite being shut down in 1963, due to the Kray’s reckless behaviour, the Barn was immensely popular and drew great crowds every weekend.
Gambling was legalised in 1960, with the introduction of the Betting and Gaming Act brought into action just a year later, in an attempt to establish some kind of regulation. After the legalisation of gambling, almost 1,000 casinos were opened, whilst pubs and bars also began installing fruit machines to cater to any slot-loving patrons.
Present day London is just as casino-obsessed, with over 25 high-class casinos operating throughout the city, taking inspiration from the bright lights of Las Vegas, as well as the more elegant and exclusive gaming locations.
London still attracts a whole host of celebrities and business moguls, eager to explore the gambling scene, the city still stands as a casino hot spot, with a rich history that you now know all about!
Gambling can be addictive, please play responsibly.
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