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History of Gambling in the UK

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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 pasttime. Ready to learn more? Read on!

The History of Gambling in the UK: Early Modern Era

Gambling has been a popular pasttime 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.

Casino House in the past

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, take a look around our site and find the one for you!