Do you know your gambling history? There’s a key reason that gambling is popular in the UK. We spend billions on gambling every year and gambling is a huge part of British culture.
The history of gambling in the UK is long and storied, going back thousands of years.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the history of British gambling and show you how it became such a popular game. Ready to learn more? Read on!
The History of Gambling in the UK
Early Modern Era
Gambling has been very popular in Britain since at least the Roman era and has almost always been legal to certain extents. Gambling houses (early British casinos) were popular and pub games were often gambled on.
Several acts were passed in this period that threatened to make gambling illegal. For instance, the Unlawful Games Act of 1541, but the government seldom enforced these laws.
The very first lottery in the UK was held in this period. Queen Elizabeth, I wanted to raise money to repair harbours and a public lottery was launched in 1566. It was very unsuccessful though, only selling a few thousand tickets. In the 18th Century, lotteries were often used by monarchs to finance wars, with this practice only ending around 1815.
While the poor had their gambling houses and pub games, it was horse racing that was, quite literally, the sport of kings. The first horse races were held in 1539 near Chester and over the next 200 years, its popularity exploded. Yet due to a lack of transport at the time, if you didn’t live near a racecourse, you were very unlikely to gamble on horse racing, so it was still limited in scope.
The Victorian Era
The Victorian era is a key moment in British gambling history. Gambling houses and the first true casinos soared in popularity among the rich and poor and new technologies made horse racing and sports betting more accessible.
Now, no matter where you lived in the country, you could get to a racecourse within hours thanks to trains. Bookies could transmit odds and other information via the telegraph, so even if you couldn’t get to the course, you could still place a bet.
The 20th Century and Today
While gambling was wildly popular in the Victorian era, there was still a class divide. It was very uncommon for working-class people to go to racecourses, so they created a new sport: greyhound racing.
The 20th century brought new opportunities for gambling from the National Lottery to in-play sports betting, to online casinos. The huge diversification of the gambling industry that came about in the 20th century is the very reason this site exists and you’re reading this piece right now!
Britain Has Always Gambled
Britain has always gambled and always found new ways to allow everyone, no matter their class, to have a flutter. If you’d like to try your hand at the very best online casinos, there are many live casino games from Lightning roulette to the extremely popular Crazy Time casino game show.
Live Casinos History
The story of more mainstream gambling with live dealers and the way that we know it today began back in the nineteenth century in North America. Gambling was taking place mainly in bars and boats in the beginning but it didn’t take long to become a very successful industry not only in North America but all over the world as soon as the first casino “venues” appeared.
Las Vegas is the best example that demonstrates how rapidly successful the industry has been. This is where live casinos history began!
Online casinos first appeared about 20 years ago (mid 90s) and saw great success straight away.
The popularity of online casinos has increased throughout the years, so did the numbers of online casinos and are now considered the number one destination for online gamblers.
From Land Based Casino to Online Casino and Then Live Casino
As technology developed further, Live Casinos appeared and with live streaming in place gamblers had the chance to play all their favourite casino games with live dealers without leaving their houses!
Live Roulette and Live Blackjack the first live dealer games, were fresh and exciting news for everyone! The fact that you could now play casino games with Live dealers at any time of the day from the comfort of your home was brilliant and casino players couldn’t ask for anything better.
More games like live baccarat, live sic bo (craps) and live poker games followed.
The first Live Casinos that appeared online had just one live dealer available, one table and the live games were available just for a few hours per day.
But it was a matter of time for the live casino industry to develop further and today there is a large number of tables for each game, different stakes, different live dealers to choose from and live casino games are available for most of the day and night.
Online casinos are now offering tables with features like Blackjack Side Bets etc. There are dozens of tables for most games (most popular ones) and even when there is no Live Dealer, some online casinos will have Live Auto Roulette! So the live casino action can go on 24/7.
From Live Casinos to Live Casinos on TV
The latest trend and expansion of online live casinos is Live TV Casino Games. A lot of online casinos offer their players the chance to play live casinos with a live dealer broadcasting on TV. The usual live casino TV game is of course gamblers favourite casino game…Live Roulette!
Live Roulette History
Now let’s have a look at the history of the most popular gambling game around the world! Roulette!
The earliest form of roulette was introduced in the 17th century by Blaise Pascal. It was a combination of English wheel games, an Italian parlour game and a French board game. There are records of a live roulette wheel existing in the Palais Royal as early as 1796.
The early roulette wheels used during this time had red for the solitary numbers and black for the double numbers.
American roulette tires, as seen in 1886, had numbers 1 to 28, as well as a single no, a double no, and an American Bald eagle. These wheels included only numbered slots, and have since been discarded. Tires with Bald eagles are extremely rare nowadays, with only less than half a dozen existing.
Roulette became more popular in the 19th century
In the 19th century, playing live roulette spreads fast all over Europe and U.S., becoming one of the most popular casino games.
Widespread cheating by both casino players led to the wheel being placed on an open table to avoid gadgets being hidden behind the table or wheel. The wagering style was also simplified.
Currently, the American type of live roulette dominates in casinos all around the world. However, the European style roulette provides better odds for winning since it only has one zero slot while the American roulette has an extra slot marked double zero.
Roulette goes Online
There has also been a rise in the popularity of online casinos that enable players to play their favourite games over the internet. Online casinos offer popular traditional casino games like blackjack, roulette, baccarat and video poker.
Online roulette provides players with plenty of entertainment and an exciting game experience. The game rules are simple and easy to understand and are the same as in any land-based casino.
From RNG to Live Roulette
The demand for roulette was very high and at some point, online casinos decided to take the next step and introduce live dealer roulette tables. Today there are live dealer tables for many gambling games like blackjack, poker dice games, baccarat even wheel of fortunes.
My name is Yannis and I am also known as Mr Live Casinos in the iGaming industry. I have been playing casino games for more than 15 years and I have been writting about casino games for more than 10. I have worked in a some of the biggest online bookmakers and online casinos in the UK.