The evolution of gambling laws in the UK


Amongst Brits, casino gaming has been an extremely popular pastime for centuries. In the modern day, all land-based and every online casino in the UK is regulated and easily accessible – but it wasn’t always this way. Throughout the year, different laws have been put in place to try and regulate gameplay, with many games thriving in secret and others offered as a chance for the poor to win a life-changing fortune.

Join us as we travel back in time to discover how gambling laws have evolved over time in the UK, and the effect they’ve had on how we play in the modern day…

The first National Lottery

Prior to the 17th century, the most popular form of betting was on horse racing. The very first race, the Kiplingcotes Derby, started in 1519. The first record of a bet on a horse race was in the 17th century, placed by King James I.

It was also thanks to the royal bloodline that the much-loved British pastime of lotteries began. In 1569, Queen Elizabeth I took it upon herself to raise funds for the refurbishment of London, which was in great need at the time. A child drew the winning ticket from the urn outside of St Paul’s Cathedral, and with only 40,000 tickets sold in comparison to the 400,000 they had expected – it really wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped.

English State Lotteries

In the decades following the first Lottery in London, many other attempts were made to host such a game, but it wasn’t until 1694 that the first state Lottery was organised – the Million Lottery. The government produced 100,000 tickets, up for sale at £10 each, and stored them in secure chests with 18 locks. The Million Lottery was designed to rise money for the Nine Year’s War, which took place between 1688 and 1697. This Lottery was such a success that it inspired many others to follow.

The final draw of the English state Lottery was in 1826 at Coopers Hall. The money raised throughout the years had paid for Westminster Bridge, what would soon become the British Museum, as well as many other schemes.

Horse Racing

During the 18th and 19th centuries, “bookies had sprung up on every street” according to Charles Dickens – which meant a greater need for the control and regulations of betting was evident. The Gambling Act, enforced in 1845, was designed to make a wager unenforceable as a contract, and The Betting Act of 1853 was created to tighten the law further to help regulate the large number of bookmakers, as the popularity of betting on horse races increased, and many of the popular races we enjoy today were gaining traction.

The Second World War

WWII saw a huge change in the gambling industry, as games like Poker were introduced to many new players. In the 20th and 21st centuries, technology had begun to advance quickly, enabling people to place bets from anywhere and find out the results almost immediately.

The Betting and Gambling Act of 1960 legalised betting shops throughout the country, allowing 13,000 to spring up within the year. 1961 saw the UK’s first legal casino open in Wales – The Casino Club Port Talbot.

The National Lottery returns

In 1993 a state Lottery returned – the National Lottery. The National Lottery etc. Act of 1993 ensured that 25% of all Lottery funds will go to good causes, declared by Parliament.

In 2005, a new Gambling Act was enforced, preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disaster, or being used to support crime, and was only participated in a fair and open way, in order to protect those more vulnerable.

The modern day

Throughout the years, the government have continued to review and amend Gambling and Betting Acts, with the Gambling Commission, funded by licensing fees paid by the industry, constantly reviewing the laws to ensure players are kept safe, and gameplay remains fair.

With technology evolving and the gaming industry eagerly developing alongside it, the future of gambling in the UK looks bright, as both land-based, online and live dealer casinos embrace every new possibility given to the industry.


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