London has a long history of gambling that dates back centuries. However, placing wagers was strictly reserved for the upper class in the early days, with often severe punishments in place for commoners caught gambling.
While Henry VIII may have been an avid gambler himself, he banned his army and poor people from partaking in gambling. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, would later start the first national lottery.
British gambling started with placing bets on jousting and would later switch to early games like Faro, Basset, and Brag. As we then approached the 20th century, it would be horse racing that would take centre stage.
Betting establishments of the mid 19th century were once again reserved for the rich and were often underground establishments with questionable legality. Crockford’s Casino in Mayfair is often regarded as London’s oldest. Meanwhile, lower class citizens had to resort to illegal street betting.
The prohibition on commercialised gambling would end during the 20th century when casinos were legalised and the first was established during the 1960s in Wales with the Casino Club in Port Talbot.
London soon followed suit with its own legal casinos and now you have some of the best casino’s in the UK located in the city including both Genting and Grosvenor casinos. Here are just some of the top London casinos to check out.
Casinos to Visit in London
Photo credit: Ian Muttoo
One of the most popular casino choices in London among UK players using NonGamStopBets UK casino sites is Empire Casino. Offering 55,000 square feet of gaming space, you’ll find it in London’s lively West End. It’s often referred to as the Manchester United of London casinos.
Spread across two floors, the Empire Casino is owned by the Caesars Entertainment group which took over the venue after having been a ballroom and theatre in the past.
Many people say the Empire is the best place to play poker, with buy-ins around £50 for cash games and tournaments. The Vegas-style casino of course also offers all the other traditional casinos games gamblers have come to love.
The Empire’s Dragon Lounge with its private entrance and deluxe tables is an exclusive offering to high-roller Queen, King, and Ace card holders. Meanwhile, over in the Kings Sports Bar you can catch Premier League Football, Cricket, and even the NFL while ordering from an American bar-food inspired menu.
Located in London’s upscale borough of Kensington, Maxims Casino is housed inside the 19th century heritage-listed Palace Gate House which belonged to John Forster, a Victorian-era biographer, literary critic, and friend of Charles Dickens.
This luxury casino offers some of the highest stake levels in Europe and therefore attracts some pretty famous and influential people. Intimate gaming rooms are housed in converted rooms that were once the drawing room and glass-roofed library.
The 24-hour casino also has a notable whisky bar stocked with famous brands from around the world.
The London Hippodrome
The London Hippodrome is by far London’s largest casino which in turn has made it one of the most popular in the city. The London Hippodrome began its life back in 1900 as a theatre that saw famous performers like Charlie Chaplin take to the stage.
The venue later became a nightclub where lucky visitors got the chance to watch Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. The London Hippodrome will celebrate its 10th anniversary as a casino this year, having been officially opened back in 2012 by then London mayor Boris Johnson.
Pushing 100,000 square feet, this mega-casino sits in London’s West End, offering five floors of gambling that actually includes three different casinos including the main Grand Casino, Lola’s, and the new Gods Casino offering Central London’s only dice table.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the award-winning Heliot Steakhouse serving up London’s best steaks as well as a three-tiered outdoor terrace. While I hope you don’t lose your shirt at the blackjack tables, you can be sure to see plenty of shirtless men at Magic Mike Live down in the casino’s 325-seat theatre.
Les Ambassadeurs Club
Photo credit: Herry Lawford
If you’re a celebrity, notable politician, self-made billionaire, or come from royal blood, then this is probably the casino for you. Mayfair’s Les Ambassadeurs Club, or “Les A” for those in the know, is touted as one of London’s most exclusive casinos, although it’s more of a social club for the elite rather than a casino.
The casino is small and intimate, housed in an opulent Georgian era building which is set on the grounds of a hunting lodge once used by Henry VIII. There are private gaming rooms with secluded terraces that can be rented and it offers up London’s largest al fresco gaming area where premium cigars are a common sight.
Membership will set you back a hefty amount and must be approved by a committee. I have heard that it may be possible to get a week-long trial membership but I’m guessing you would still need to have wealthy credentials or connections with the right people.
If you do happen to gain access, you may find yourself amongst billionaire businessmen like Mike Ashley and Philip Green who are said to be members. Les Ambassadeurs also has a connection with James Bond, with a movie set for the first Bond movie Dr. No being modelled after the Club.
When you’re not partaking in American roulette, baccarat, blackjack, or Three Card Poker, you can enjoy fine dining at the club which offers Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian, and European cuisine.
Crown London Aspinalls
Photo credit: CVB Wikimedia Commons
Also located in Mayfair is yet another affluent private gambling club. Aspinalls dates back to the 1960’s when it was founded by John Aspinall who also set up several unconventional zoos that exist to this day offering unique animal experiences.
Today, the club has become Crown Aspinalls after Crown Casinos acquired a 50% share. This change has seen the club go from strictly being reserved for the elite to now also being attainable for the middle class.
Membership requires submitting an application, being approved, and paying a rather sizeable membership joining fee which at last check was around £1,000. Like Les Ambassadeurs Club, there is a main gaming floor as well as private gaming salon and dining.
Becoming a member of the prestigious Aspinalls Club puts you in the company of some pretty big names which once again include famous politicians and royalty.
These are just a sampling of the many great casinos and gambling clubs found in London. You will also find other great casinos in Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham.