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Casino culture in London

by Sarah Dunsby
23rd Aug 23 10:39 am

In London, many years ago (back in the 16th century), card games were reserved for the royalty and aristocrats of that period. Fast forward to today, and anyone can play casino games!

But a lot happened between then and now to make casino games more accessible to everyone.

A short history of the casino culture in London

London has long been a place that is rich in culture in general, and the casino culture has been part of that from the start. For a long time in the 16th century, it played home to some of the finest casino gaming that you could find in Europe.

Most often, you would find high-stakes games that were played by the big theatre stars, those of affluent backgrounds, businessmen who had made their fortunes and the royalty at the time. At the time, these games would see hundreds or even thousands of pounds in play – which in today’s money would be a huge amount.

While table and card games were some of the most popular, boxing matches, bets, and sports betting were also on the rise. And you could also find games like three cards brag played on the street – this precursor to poker was played by the soldiers at that time. Over time the games played on the street evolved and ended up playing at some of the best tables in London casino venues.

The oldest casinos in London

With London having a longstanding reputation for entertainment, it is no surprise that some of the casinos hark back to a different era. The oldest casino is the Crockford’s Casino; while it was originally opened and run by a casino enthusiast, it has since been taken over by the Genting Group.

Crockford’s was once a gentleman’s club, though, where British soldiers, political figures, businessmen and diplomats would spend their time. The dining was said to be incredible, and the best drinks in the city were served at the bar.

At the time, casino gaming was illegal, but that never stopped William Crockford from hosting, and instead of shutting down games, he just paid the fines when they arrived.

Over time Crockford’s opened their doors to women, and true to the roaring 20s, women were expected to be in fine cocktail attire, including heels. While men always had to be dressed correctly to enter, a tuxedo was a must.

The Empire was another casino that had a roaring trade from 1884 onwards. The building itself is grand, and it has retained its how regal it was back then.

And you might be familiar with Esmeralda’s Barn, which was owned for a short stint by the Kray brothers – it is mentioned in all the biopics and movies because it was such an integral part of their empire and of the history of London. Some of the people to sit at the table famously included Sir Francis Bacon and Freud!

London’s casino scene nowadays has everything from the ideal place for a relaxed evening without being dressed up to all the glitz and glam you’d want. Being home to more than a few exclusive hot spots, you’ll need to get on a list and be dressed to the nines to get in the door.

The Colony Club offers one of the most luxurious casino experiences in London and is on Parklane. Membership is free – and you can ask about it at reception or apply online using their form. The club is rated as one of the most exclusive clubs in London and is frequented by those with more than a few pounds to spare.

Hippodrome Casino

For those who are looking for a casino that has more than a little buzz, then the Hippodrome is the place for you. It is one of the business casinos in the UK, and that is because it doubles up as one of the best entertainment venues too.

They boast a huge 100 electronic games, over 45 tables and a deluxe poker room. As well as that, you can find burlesque shows, musicals, cabaret, and live sporting events – ideal for an evening of indulgence.

The Barracuda

Take a walk along Baker Street, and you’ll find the Barracuda, which has a good number of games available, including Roulette, Three-card poker, and Punto Banco. Unfortunately, if you like to play your poker games in private, this is not the place for you unless you are a VIP member.

Anything that falls into the high-stakes category will be played in the White Room, which is a space dedicated to those who are VIPs.

The Barracuda serves up a wide range of food and has one of the best wine and beer lists.

London and casinos have gone hand in hand for years, and the games once played on the streets have made their way into the high stakes’ rooms across the city. One thing is for sure. You’ll have the time of your life in any of the venues mentioned above – and there are still plenty of other locations to choose from too.


Please play responsibly. For more information and advice visit https://www.begambleaware.org

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