When it comes to casino tourism, the UK might not share the same popularity as the likes of Vegas or Macau, but it does have a very rich gambling history (pun intended), and its gambling industry today is worth £14.5 billion.
Many tourists looking for an exciting evening take in the theater, as well as local bars and nightclubs (London is particular famous for its gin dens), though for gambling fans, there are also many fantastic casinos.
Casino culture in the UK has had a rocky history; it’s come in and out of favor (most notably having been banned by King Henry XII because he believed that it distracted soldiers from their duties), though the industry remains strong today.
And it’s likely to stay that way – besides the sheer amount of tax revenue that gambling generates for the Government, we all know how Queen Elizabeth II loves a good horse race!
If you’re keen on gambling, and consider yourself more James I than Henry VIII, here are a few things to know about casino tourism, and gambling in cities throughout the UK.
An Introduction to Gambling Culture in the UK
The Diversity of UK Casinos
Gambling in the UK is booming, especially in London, and as the UK continues to build more and more Vegas-style “Super Casino” complexes, there’s some pretty hard competition for the title of best casino in the UK.
There’s huge diversity here, which is great to see; everything from small, exclusive poker dens, to full scale entertainment venues with concert halls, 24 hour food and drink, and floors of slot machines (like Hippodrome Casino in London).
UK land-based casinos offer an exceptional variety of casino games, from the all-time classics such as Roulette, Blackjack and Craps, to the more exotic games, such as Kalooki, Mahjong, Casino War and Wheel of Fortune.
The gambling scene in London alone is one of the most diverse in Europe, though if you’re outside of the city there are 100 land-based casinos spread all around the country, so it’s likely you’ll never be far from one.
If you’re looking for some of the best casinos in London Aspers Casino is the largest, with 70 gaming tables as well as a dozen poker tables and 150 + machines. Crockfords Club is another; a relatively small establishment, but recognized as the world’s oldest private members gaming club.
Those looking for something quieter can head away from London to other destinations in the UK. Northern cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle all offer a selection of casinos in the heart of the city.
The Strength of the UK Gambling Market
The UK has one of the strongest gambling markets in the world. This means not only do big casinos exist, but there is a strong offering across many other types of gambling, like lotteries and horse racing.
The UK’s gambling culture has very much evolved from when the rich wagered on horses and games like chess and cards. The poor would barter on dice games and later, coin-based games.
State supported lotteries have been a big part of UK gambling culture since Elizabeth I in 1569, and the 18th century saw the birth two of Britain’s two biggest horse racing names: the Jockey Club and Tattersalls.
Nowadays there’s less of a distinction between the classes, and gambling isn’t just for the wealthy – with technology the country has seen a trend towards online gambling, and betting websites are now just as popular as land based casinos.
Social gambling is still as popular as ever, though in an attempt to get people playing at home, online casinos offer their new players a bonus when they join – a list of casino welcome offers can be found online. So many UK casinos now rely on visiting tourists.
Hotspots to Visit
The UK is made up of made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so there are actually man hotspots to visit outside of most people’s first choice of London, ie Edinburgh and Belfast are both worthy gambling destinations.
That said, we’ll admit that all of our favorites are in fact found in the capital!
One of the largest and busiest casinos in the UK, the Grosvenor Victoria Casino London, affectionately known as “the Vic”, sits in the heart of London and boasts one of the largest and most iconic poker rooms in Europe.
Having recently celebrated it’s 50th anniversary, it is one of the longest established casinos in the country. In the sixties it was ‘the casino to visit’ with American junkets flying over to London purely to join in the excitement and to this day, it is still seen as ‘the place to be’ when in London.
It’s worthwhile noting that the gambling age in UK casinos is 18. The dress code in most casinos is relaxed smart casual, but feel free to channel your inner 007 with a suitably inspired glam look!