London is, and always has been, a melting pot of cultures. Due to the colonial past of the United Kingdom, London was always an intersection where the crowds from all over the world would come to look for a better future and were bringing their favorite games with them. Nowadays, punters don’t need to seek a gambling venue in shady parts of town, as everything is accessible online. Read genuine online casino reviews at IrishCasinoHEX, and find out more about online casinos.
London was never a stranger to the gambling industry. Gambling was a favorite pastime of both the poor and the rich, so let’s take a closer look at the history of gambling in the capital of the United Kingdom.
King Henry VIII – England’s No. 1 Gambler
King Henry VII (1537–1547) is often considered to be the biggest gambler in British history. The popular and in many ways notorious monarch, had a sweet spot for gambling games. His favorites were dice, backgammon (which was known as “Tables” at the time), and a game called Betting Queek. Henry VII was also one of the first royals to embrace Bragg, a game that was a predecessor of poker. Even though Henry was known to lose big (it is believed he lost an incredible amount at the time – £3,250 in just two years), he banned gambling in the military to keep his soldiers focused.
Who is Thomas Neale?
Sir Thomas Neale was the royal croupier who had a street named after him in Covent Garden. Neale, a groom to Charles II, James II, and William III, had the task of preparing the gambling table for his king. Only in 1684 did Charles II make him the man in charge of overseeing all gambling activities in London, and making sure there are no illegal establishments. Neale made such a big impact that in 1870 they renamed King Street to Neal Street.
The role of Sir Thomas Neale shows how gambling was perceived in 17th and 18th century England. It was never officially banned, but illegal dents were always one step from closing. Such establishments were mostly run in poorer parts of the city, thus making it obvious how gambling is reserved for aristocracy who can afford to lose, and not the average working man.
Daniel Defoe, one of the most influential authors of the 17th century, puts it all in perspective in his novel Moll Flanders. The novel describes the fall of Moll, an unfortunate woman trying to find a way to make some money. In the end, the protagonist is forced to thieving and whoredom. In her mess of a life, Moll visits gambling houses where she tricks men and steals their money. Defoe’s social commentary definitely left a lot of impact on how gambling is perceived.
Gambling and Gin Craze
18th century London had two weak spots – gambling and gin, and they often went hand in hand. They were often described as “mother’s ruin” and luxurious gambling venues were called “hells”, while those in poorer parts of the city were called “lower hells”. The main reason why gambling had such a bad reputation was that it was the only way a poor man could get rich, and rich man poor within a few hands.
However, in the 19th century London was introduced to the first casino – Crockford, that is now the oldest casino venue in London. Crockford was established by William Crockford and sponsored by the Duke of Wellington. The venue has been open since 1928.
London Gambling Scene in the 20th Century
Gambling in the 20th century in London was defined by the Kray Twins, who owned and operated Esmerelda’s Barn. even though they were not very business-savvy, the brothers managed to make their casino a popular place to hang out amongst celebrities, thus managing to ensure a stardom status for themselves as well.
The Betting and Gambling Act of 1961 transformed the gambling landscape in London and made it more mainstream. The industry became completely legal, among all classes, and in every part of town, with slot machines becoming an essential part of every pub. The Clermont Club was the first licensed casino in London, and Roger Moore, Peter Sellers, and even Princess Margaret were loyal customers.