By the 1830’s there were gambling establishments all over London and they weren’t all as civilised as the gentleman’s clubs of the 1700’s. In 1833, The Times published this account:
“The generality of minor gambling houses are kept by prize-fighters and other desperate characters, who bully and hector the more timid out of their money by deciding that bets have been lost, when, in fact, they have been won. To these places thieves resort and such other loose characters as are lost to every feeling of honesty and shame.”
This article went on to talk of men losing their clothes and being sent home almost naked. This ‘bad’ behaviour resulted in The Gaming Act of 1845 which stipulated that wagers could no longer be legally binding contracts.
In the 1700’s, horseracing became a professional sport that people could bet on and by the mid-1800’s, there were more than 400 betting shops in London. The Attorney General recommended a bill to the House of Commons that would prohibit betting as “mischief arising from the existence of these betting shops is perfectly notorious”.
These betting houses were closed down but this didn’t seem to stop Britain from gambling. Street betting continued until it was banned in the Street Betting Act in 1906 – the only place where it was legal to bet was at the race course.
In September 1890, the Tranby Scandal, otherwise known as the Royal Baccarat Scandal, happened at the shipping magnate Arthur Wilson’s home. His guests, who included the Prince of Wales and Sir William Gordon-Cumming, were playing illegal baccarat when Gordon-Cumming was accused of cheating. The case went to court as slander and the future British king, King Edward VII had to testify. Gordon-Cumming lost the court battle and had to retire from the army in disgrace.
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