Gambling, in its many forms, is as quintessentially British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or forming an orderly queue. In fact, of all the world’s countries, it could be argued that we’ve done more than any other to develop and popularise it as a pastime.
Although types of gambling go back to almost beyond history, it wasn’t until the 17th century that it first began to be enjoyed in an organised way.
Although there is evidence that the very first lottery may have been run in 1566, it wasn’t until 1694 that the first officially recognised one was introduced. It was run by the state and, just like the National Lottery today, its aim was to raise money for the country. But, unlike today’s lottery, it was more like a premium bond than a chance to win millions. Each ticket cost £10 and paid back 10% interest. The lottery aspect came from the fact that “lucky” tickets selected at random would pay a far higher interest rate.
It was also at around this time that organised horse racing started to take shape. In the earliest days of race meetings, however, there were no official bookmakers. Spectators simply placed bets with each other and set their own odds. Very quickly the sport expanded – at its peak there were over 120 courses throughout the UK and eventually, in 1751, the Jockey Club was established to try to bring some order, with Tattersalls being launched in 1789 to do the same for betting. It seems hard to believe it today, but it wasn’t until 1960 that betting was finally permitted away from the race course.
While gaming was going on in the great outdoors, the establishments that would evolve into being recognisable casinos were first being introduced as well. One of the first was White’s – today an exclusive London club – a coffee and gaming house which opened in 1652; soon there were a number throughout the city. With the increase in tourism in the 18th and 19th centuries, Bath became the country’s second biggest centre for gaming, and the rich frequently headed there for a social season away from the capital.
Moving ahead in time, it was possibly the 1960s when London really affirmed itself as the UK’s casino capital with legendary clubs like Aspinall’s attracting everyone from the aristocracy to the decade’s top celebrities. Then, in 1968, the Gaming Act opened the doors for many more casinos to be established up and down the country.
However, it’s in the last few years that a real revolution in UK gaming has taken place with the emergence of online casino operators such as 888casino that are leading the way in the online gambling industry. These have made it easy to play everything from slots to poker from the comfort of your own home using a PC, tablet or even phone. The fact that, according to the Gambling Commission, online gaming generated £3.6 billion in revenue between 2014 and 2015 speaks for itself.
It’s also attracted a whole new range of players, particularly in younger age brackets who appreciate the ease and convenience of play. Women, who are not traditional casino-goers, are also an increasingly important target audience for the online casino operators.
So no-one could deny that gambling in the UK has come a very long way since it first started to gain popularity. And with the new lease of life that online gaming has provided, it seems like there’s also an exciting future ahead of it.