Throughout its history, London has always been one of the gambling centers of the planet. Here is a brief history of gambling in the British capital.
Royal Groom Porter
Gambling was always popular in the English royal court, so much so that Groom Porter, a person in charge of king’s lodgings and responsible for providing bedding and firewood, also had to ensure there were enough tables, dice, and cards for the king’s party at any time. Perhaps the best-known groom porter was Thomas Neale, who served in this capacity under three kings (Charles II, James II, and William III). He was also tasked with sniffing out and closing illegal gambling houses in London. Neale also organized the first English state lottery, called Million Lottery in 1695. It was designed as a means to gather funds for the war effort against France. In that sense, it didn’t prove very successful, but it was extremely popular and started a tradition of state lotteries in England.
As shown in several of his novels, especially in Moll Flanders, London in the time of Daniel Defoe was very fond of gambling. There are numerous accounts of gambling houses, both legal and illegal, both in London slums and more affluent neighborhoods. From the poorest to the richest, it seems that everyone enjoyed a game of cards or dice from time to time. Moll Flanders, as well as many other London criminals, often had a chance to con rich men who frequented less savory London gambling establishments. Gambling was considered a scourge of society in 18th century London. There were numerous cases of violence and suicides after people lost all their money at the tables. It is no wonder that there were numerous tries of banning gambling entirely during this period.
It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times
The 19th century brought little change to the world of London gambling. In 1828, the currently oldest casino in the city was opened by William Crockford. Crockford was sponsored by the Duke of Wellington and ever since it was opened, it catered to posh parts of London’s society. Back then we didn’t have specialized sites where you can check out how experts review casinos, but if we did, Crockford Casino would be near the top of the list. During this time Charles Dickens wrote The Old Curiosity Shop, describing the lives of the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather. Apart from its literary value, the novel is interesting as it depicts the gambling underworld of London. Nell’s grandfather, in an attempt to secure an inheritance for his granddaughter, gambles every night, falling deeper and deeper into debt to a sadistic moneylender named Daniel Quilp. In the end, after losing their shop to Quilp and being reduced to begging, both Nell and her grandfather died. The story is often used as a warning against gambling.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the kings of the London underworld and gambling were the infamous Kray brothers. Twins Reggie and Ronnie ran Esmeralda’s Barn, one of the most popular casinos in London. But the real boom started in 1961 when a new Betting and Gaming Act was passed. Overnight, thousands of betting shops sprouted all over London, opening their doors to punters and helping establish what London is today.
The rise of the Internet brought a new kind of gambling. Online casinos started popping everywhere, but London was the most popular place for their headquarters. In fact, there are so many of them that it is getting hard to keep track of them. And that abundance of gambling opportunities is what separates London from other gambling capitals of the world. Unlike in some other cities, London has something for everyone, whether you are looking to place a quick bet on an online slot or a posh casino like the ones we see in movies. In London, you are sure to find both kinds.