The History of Gambling in the United Kingdom

4 weeks ago
The History of Gambling in the United Kingdom
07:07
18 Sep

Gambling has a long, interesting history in the United Kingdom. Presumably, just like in many countries, people have been gambling on everything from two flies running up a wall since long before recorded history began. From dice, back then, to scanning a UK Online Casinos List for the latest slots game today.

What people gambled on generally depended on which strata of society they belonged to, and this has evolved right up until the present day.

The lower class end of the community would prefer the simple game of dice while, believe it or not, the upper crust stuck to horse racing and cockfighting. There was no roulette back then.


Early Ban

In 1190 King Richard I came up with the first laws to prevent gambling in the country, extending the privilege to only noblemen. By the 1500’s Henry XIII was of the opinion that gambling was corrupting his army and distracting them from their duties and so banned the pursuit outright.

This was more than a little hypocritical because he enjoyed betting so much himself that he once lost the famous Jesus Bells of the Old Saint Paul church.

In 1569, Elizabeth I, Henry’s daughter, was the first ruler to allow a nationwide lottery which would, of course, be heavily taxed and allow her to build up the country, which eventually led to the rise of the British Empire.


Victorian and Post-War England

Horse racing was the order of the day in Victorian times. The wealthy used to switch between gambling on the nags as well as the new stock market. The working class was banned from taking part in either but this didn’t stop an illegal industry from being a part of the fabric of society, back then.

Eventually it all ended, though, unless you were a part of the aristocracy. The Gaming Act (1845) and the Betting Act (1853) saw an end to public gambling in all forms, for a short while. But if people fancy a flutter then it’s difficult to stop them, as the British government found out.

The Street Betting Act (1906) was the final attempt to kill off what they thought was immoral behaviour and it failed miserably. The underground betting scene was as lively as ever.

It was only during the post-war years, when the country was still rebuilding, that the government finally relented, or more likely just wanted the additional tax revenue, and legalised high street bookmakers for use by the general public.


Modern Day

Not a lot really changed over the next 30 years until the national lottery was formed in 1994. Jackpots of many millions of pounds whetted the population’s appetite for the occasional flutter, and soon after scratchcards were to be found in newsagents across the country, being one of the most played games right now.

This was also during the early years of the internet which would lead to a massive explosion of activity in the gambling industry.

The UK ended up being one of the first countries to realise what was happening and implemented the Gambling Act of 2005 into law to protect the most vulnerable and to limit predatory behaviour by the companies. The UK Gambling Commision works tirelessly to protect players from exploitation.

Currently, the nation is viewed as a model worth replicating for gambling legislation around the world, and is now in the process of updating the 2005 law to maintain that status.


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Mark from Stamford in the UK is a professional cash game player, and part time journalist. A massive chess fan and perpetual traveller.He also produces strategy content for our sister wesbite PokerVIP.com.Read more

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