The Evolution and History of Gambling Laws in the United Kingdom

Gambling has always had somewhat of a bad rep. Shady dents run by god knows who. Mafia and all sorts of people in the underworld being in charge. Scammers and tricksters chasing after your hard-earned money. It doesn’t sound like something you want to get involved with. However, things change, and they change fast. The accessibility and intuitive nature of casino games online made this form of leisure incredibly popular, as well as highly regulated. But, how did the United Kingdom handle gambling back then, before it managed to recognize it as a valid industry and economic power force?

Tudors and Stuarts Reserve it for the Rich

From the 15th century onwards, gambling was often perceived not only as entertainment for the rich, but also as a vice. The Unlawful Games Act 1541 made all gambling illegal, especially among army ranks, as it was deemed to interfere with military training. That didn’t stop Queen Elizabeth from launching the first national lottery, though. In the period between 1566 and 1569, she used it as a source of funding for harbours, which proved to be a pretty clever idea and the beginning of more modern gambling regulations. Or at least so it seemed.

Danger to the Morale

The Gambling Acts of 1710, 1728, 1738, 1739, and 1744 all regulated not only the taxation of gambling wins and gambling houses but also certain games. The great leap forward happened with The Gaming Act of 1845. This particular law recognized games of skill and legalized them, made cheating a crime, and regulated gambling houses and casinos.

Finally, the UK witnessed the Gaming and Betting Acts of 1853 whose main purpose was to ban gambling, at least among those less fortunate, but to little avail. In the 1850s, there were around 150 betting shops operating in London’s working-class areas alone. The Victorian era introduced gambling as a social activity, despite many reform movements that condemned it as a sin.

The 20th Century Progress

The 20th century brought immense progress in industry and technology, and bookies were among the first to keep up with the latest trends. The Street Betting Act of 1906 was voted with one goal alone – to ban betting on the streets and in pubs, but neither bookies nor law officers were too keen on putting it to use. Off-course betting was finally legalized in 1960, which, just like bingo, was another pastime Brits hold so dearly.

The Future is Now

The 21st century was another one to bring great surprises. With the rise of online betting, the authorities were facing challenges like none before. The Gambling Act of 2005 established the Gambling Commission, a regulatory body that supervises all aspects of betting and gambling in the UK. In 2019, the Government announced a big revision which should, after several delays, be revealed in May 2022. Many believe the revision, also called The Gaming Act’s White Paper, will bring more betting limits and background checks, but for now, only time can tell.

Categorised as Blog