Legendary British Casinos: The Oldest Casino in the UK

February 16, 2023
The Oldest Casino in the UK

For centuries, gambling has been a beloved pastime among the people of the United Kingdom, from the aristocrats to the commoners. From horse racing bets to lotteries, and even casino games, the thrill of chance has captivated the hearts of many. In this blog post, we’ll be delving into the rich history of the oldest casino in the UK, exploring the intriguing tales of its past, and examining the ways in which it has influenced modern gambling operators. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating subject, and use the quick navigation below to find your way around this blog.

Exploring the History of UK Gambling and Casinos

Since the 16th century, gambling has been a popular activity among UK citizens of all social statuses. Despite attempts by the government to regulate or ban it, gambling continued to thrive. With horse racing emerging as the most popular form of betting in the 18th and 19th centuries. Aristocrats enjoyed high-stakes gambling at private clubs, while lotteries were often used to fund military campaigns.

The Rise of Casinos

While gambling houses existed before, casinos with card games became the most popular form of gambling during the 19th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act that casinos were fully legalized in the UK. Despite opposition from puritan groups, gambling remained a favorite pastime among players of all social statuses.

The Oldest Casino in the UK

Now, let’s turn our attention to the oldest casino in the UK. Which has a rich and fascinating history that has helped shape modern gambling. But where would a person go if they wanted to play at a casino during those times? Keep reading to find out.

Discovering the Oldest Casino in the UK

When it comes to the oldest casino in the UK, there is one establishment that stands out above all others: St James’s Club. Founded on the 2nd of January 1823 by William Crockford, a fishmonger, and architects Benjamin and Philip Wyatt. The casino quickly became a popular destination on London’s famous St. James Street.

The Rise of St James’s Club

During the 19th century, the UK entered a period of peace, and many nobles and wealthy young people looked for ways to pass the time. While early Regency gambling houses provided a fun distraction, they often cheated their customers, leading to fights when someone lost large sums of money. Crockford aimed to create a place that offered fair games and complete safety for all social classes.

St James’s Club quickly gained a reputation as a high-class, exclusive club. Its membership was exclusively male, and the guest list included some of the most influential people of the time. Such as Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. With Louis-Eustache Ude, a famous French chef, as the cook, the oldest casino in the UK became a symbol of luxury and extravagance.

The Games and Experience

Not much is known about the games at the oldest UK casino. Except that Hazard, an old version of the baccarat game, was incredibly popular. Guests could also enjoy chatting with each other and relaxing at the bar between games. With free food and drinks served after midnight.

The Legacy of St James’s Club

By the time the club closed in 1845, Crockford had amassed a fortune of at least £1 million. The oldest UK casino would serve as an inspiration and prototype to some of the best casinos in London. With its focus on providing a solid overall experience, rather than just a place to play games.

The club’s legacy did not end there. It was turned into a bridge club in 1928, and eventually, players could enjoy blackjack and roulette games. Meanwhile, Crockfords Club on Curzon Street in London is a casino directly inspired by the original club and owned by the Genting Group. With his business sense and knack for calculating odds, Crockford revolutionized gambling in the UK.

Other Old UK Casinos

Gambling in the 19th century was prevalent in the UK, despite the prohibitions, and casinos were the latest fad. Although private casinos would only become legal in 1960 according to early UK gambling laws, there were many private clubs on St. James Street, along with many underground venues such as Esmeralda’s Barn.

The Casino Club (First Legal UK Casino)

The Casino Club in Port Talbot, Wales, was the oldest casino in the UK that had a legal licence. It was opened in 1961, immediately after the Betting and Gaming Act was introduced, and would quickly become a popular attraction among locals and tourists from Cardiff and Swansea. Club members could also relax at the bar, dine at the restaurant that can seat up to 400 people, party on the dance floor or watch cabaret performances. Although the citizens had mixed feelings about the casino, some outright against it, it would operate for 50 years before closing.

Clermont Club (The Mayfair Set)

John Aspinall opened his casino called Clermont Club in 1962, a year after The Casino Club opened. The club was located in the expensive Mayfair district of London and named after the 1st Earl of Clermont, an avid gambler. Similar to Crockford’s club, this was an exclusive club for wealthy and influential people, although it also admitted women. The casino would change ownership multiple times, as it was sold to Playboy Enterprises in the 80s and subsequently to Rank Group and BIL International. What makes this club different is that it still operates to this day, capturing the prestigious atmosphere of a gentleman’s club, complete with a restaurant and many modern conveniences. However, it is still exclusively for members.

Grosvenor Casino The Victoria (Part of the Oldest Casino Chain)

The Grosvenor Casino brand has been famous since its creation in the 70s, but few know its oldest casino in the UK. Originally known as the Victoria Sporting Club in the 60s, it began as a sportsbook for horse races. Eventually, as card games became popular, the Victoria became a casino and part of the Grosvenor Casino chain, which nowadays includes more than 50 operators across the UK. The Vic became known for its high-stakes games in the 80s, which include roulette, casino war, jackpot slots and more. After the creation of The Poker Room, this casino would also become the stage for world-class poker tournaments, such as the European Poker Tour and The Grosvenor UK Poker Tour.

Although it is not the oldest casino in the UK, the Vic has a similarly rich history and remains a popular spot for gamblers. These days, players can enjoy playing their favourite games from the comforts of their homes with Grosvenor Casino online. However, land-based operators offer a unique social experience, and the oldest UK casinos inspire even the most modern ones.

The Rise of Online Casinos in the UK

Recent UK gambling statistics show that online casinos have become more popular than their land-based counterparts. This is likely due to their accessibility and convenience. However, it’s important to remember the significance of the oldest casino in the UK. Its unique social atmosphere and entertaining games paved the way for future land-based and online casinos in the country.

FAQ: Oldest Casino in the UK

Before concluding our blog, let’s answer some common questions about the oldest casino in the UK. Learn more about the oldest casino and gambling houses, as well as the identity of the oldest legal casino in the country. You can even discover how modern casinos have been influenced by their predecessors.

  • What is the oldest casino in the UK?

    While the United Kingdom had a fair share of gambling establishments, the title of the oldest casino belongs to St James’s Club, commonly known as Crockford’s Club, which was founded by William Crockford in 1823. Crockford sought to create a gentleman’s club open to all men with strict security measures and fair gameplay, in contrast to other gambling houses that existed at the time.

  • Which is the oldest casino chain in the UK?

    Grosvenor Casinos is one of the most prominent and longstanding casino chains in the UK. Established in the 1970s and currently owned by the Rank Group, it operates over 50 casinos throughout the country. The brand was originally called County Clubs, but it changed its name to Grosvenor Casinos in 2007.

    Among its casinos is The Victoria, which is recognized as the oldest Grosvenor Casino. It has a distinguished poker room that attracts poker enthusiasts from all over the world, and it regularly hosts high-class poker tournaments. The Victoria is also famous for its selection of table games and slot machines, as well as its luxurious and elegant interior design.

  • Are there any old casino clubs that operate today?

    Certainly, even though online casinos have overtaken their land-based counterparts in popularity, there are still some exclusive casino clubs that remain in operation. The Clermont Club is a prime example, founded by John Aspinall just two years after the legalisation of casinos in the UK. The casino remains members-only, but it boasts an impressive collection of table games and even has a serene terrace for relaxation.

  • What's the oldest legal casino in the UK?

    Following the legalisation of casinos in the UK in the 1960s, The Casino Club was founded in 1961, making it the oldest legal casino operating with an equal chance license in the country. This license meant that the casino didn’t generate profits from the games, ensuring that players had a fair chance of winning. In addition to an excellent selection of games, the club also had a bar and a dance floor to provide guests with entertainment.

  • When were UK casinos legalised?

    In the annals of UK gambling, the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 stands out as a significant turning point. This legislation marked the legalization of casinos, which until then had operated as social clubs. Membership requirements were strict, and the gaming options were limited to table games. However, the lack of oversight made it easy for some establishments to resort to underhanded tactics, such as using shills to fleece unsuspecting players.

The Oldest Casino in the UK
The Oldest Casino in the UK

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