AllThe Evolution of the UK’s Gambling Culture


The Evolution of the UK’s Gambling Culture

The progress of gambling in the UK has seen online casinos offer a range of bonuses, like Free Spins No Deposit, whilst land-based casinos welcome a variety of people. In 2020, the gross gambling yield in Great Britain was £14.1 billion, and with 43% of the British population having gambled at least once by March 2022.

Remember you need to be 18+ to gamble within the UK and please feel free to visit for more information on how to gamble safely.

However, where and how did this all begin in the UK?

How UK Gambling Began in Modern History

Gambling hasn’t always been slot machines and poker cards. The earliest forms of gambling could be said to be of chance with some dice. The game Raffles, in which a player must land identical numbers on all three dice or have the highest pair of identical numbers to win. Another game called Hazard, which was first mentioned in the 14th Century, became the predecessor for the very well-known casino game Craps.

Originally, gambling was seen as a privilege and folly of the rich. During the 12th Century (particularly 1190) under King Richard I, anyone below the status of a knight was not allowed to gamble. Furthermore, a minimum bet amount was introduced by the king set at 20 shillings.

Furthermore, by 1541, the Unlawful Games Act was passed to make any form of gambling illegal but was in fact never enforced. However, any gambling debts could not be collected through the court or any legal means.

However, that doesn’t mean the rich weren’t continuing to gamble. King Edward IV would place bets on blood sports, and King Henry VII incurred large gambling debts from his endeavors.

How Queen Elizabeth I Changed the ‘Game’…

In 1559, Queen Elizabeth I was named ruler, which changed the fate of gambling in the UK forever. With the new ruler, came a more relaxed stance on gambling. In 1567, Queen Elizabeth introduced the first state lottery to raise money for ships and harbors. The prize money was £5000, partly in real money and partly in fine goods. Ticket holders were also exempt from arrest for all crimes except murder, felonies, piracy, and treason.

Many private lotteries were held in-between, however the English State Lottery only found popularity between 1694-1826 and were all held for ‘good causes’ and raise money. Examples of this include the Million Lottery (1694) and the Malt Lottery (1697).

…Alongside the Rise of the Bookies

The earliest record of a horse race was in 1539 at Chester. In 1671 King Charles II popularized the Newmarket Racecourse. Just 30 years later, Queen Anne started the Ascot Racecourse that many still frequent today. This was followed by the Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes.

The first known bookie, Harry Ogden, changed the game of how bets were placed. Ogden offered bets placed on odds instead of a win or lose outcome. This new style of betting would surpass the dredges of history and is still in effect today.

By 1814, the sports betting game became widely available for the masses with the introduction of railways. After the abolition of the government lotteries, gambling still took place in private sectors and bookies still frequented pubs and alleys on the down low, helping close the gap between the lower and higher class.

Skip to the 20th Century

The first casino to open was in 1828 by William Crockford, which made a raucous reputation until it finally closed in 1970 for good. The Crockford’s Casino were partial to the higher-class patrons and was considered the most stylish and exclusive casino in London.

However, with the bad reputation of casinos, the government tried banning gambling establishments and street betting for the lower class. When this didn’t work, they instead passed the Betting and Gaming Act in 1960 to decrease the amount of ‘criminal’ activity associated with gambling – and it worked.

The first legal casino club, called The Casino Club, opened in 1961 by George Alfred Hames in Wales. The casino had a fine dining restaurant and a Monte Carlo-esc nature to its décor. At this point in time, casinos had an equal chance rule meaning there was no edge towards the house over players.

The Gambling Commission

With the rise of online casinos, as well as land-based casinos, the Gambling Act was established alongside the Gambling Commission in 2005. The new legislation controlled all forms of gambling, including digital. The Gambling commission also began to control the National Lottery in 2013.

The purpose of the act was to prevent crimes, the exploitation of vulnerable people and to make sure casinos were conducted in a fair manner.

The Evolution

With gambling now being heavily controlled and above board, the nature of it all has completely changed from how it initially began in the Middle Ages. With online casinos now on the rise in popularity, the face of gambling will never be the same again. With all the new safety control procedures in place too, the industry continues to grow under the government rule.

By Danisha K

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