Casinos come and go, such is the nature of them. When they are in high demand, companies fall over themselves to open a new one so as to take advantage of the clamour for placing bets. When the desire to place a wager or two begins to wane, so too does the need for the casino and so they close their doors. For a time, it felt as though that would never happen to Crockfords, such was the extent to which Britain’s oldest casino was seen as something of a stalwart of the industry.
Sadly such dependability is at its end, with news emerging that it will close its doors for the final time after in excess of 195 years of business. Crockfords Casino was known for its high-end clients, with the likes of aristocracy and royalty gracing its tables, but after a consultation was launched over its future the owners have decided to shut it down. Owned and operated by Genting, the Mayfair-based venue employs more than 100 staff, but they will either be moved to a new location or else be given redundancy as an era of top-class betting is drawn to a close.
A Well-Known Name in Gambling
Established by a working-class fishmonger in 1828, Crockfords, named after its founded William Crockford, soon became well-known as a private members gaming club that was for the elite, being located at 50 St James Place. It monopolised on the desire to gamble heavily that was present in the 1800s, allowing the upper echelons of British society to place bets somewhere sophisticated. As it grew in popularity, making Crockford himself one of the richest self-made men in the country, it moved to a new location in the heart of Mayfair and began to attract high-rollers from around the world.
In 2017, the casino hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when it faced a legal battle from the well-known poker player, Phil Ivey. Ivey had been playing baccarat in the casino and won £7.7 million, but Crockfords refused to pay out on the suspicion that he was cheating. Ivey denied the accusation and took them to court, but he lost his legal battle. In the end, he continued to deny any misconduct and was able to recoup his initial stake of £1 million, but it meant that Crockfords was being talked about in a way that wouldn’t have sat right with the wealthy clientele that frequented it.
Why It Is Shutting
Since the global health crisis saw visitors to London drop in number, high-end London casinos have found their market to be more competitive than ever. The so-called ‘tourist tax’, which saw the axing of VAT-free shopping in England, means that spending money in the United Kingdom is more costly for international travellers than it used to. As a result, fewer are coming and spending big amounts in venues such as casinos, with many feeling that it isn’t worth investing in the UK anymore. This is having an impact on venues like Crockfords, which depend on the money spend by high-rollers.
London has struggled to bring in visitors in recent years, with other big-name casinos like the Ritz and the Clermont also shutting up shop. The capital has lost out to other much-loved gambling hubs around the world as the high-rollers have chosen to take their business elsewhere. High-end casinos contribute as much as £150 million to the Treasury each year, in addition to £188 million brought in to London’s economy and about £120 million on tourism spent in the city each year. Even so, Genting have decided to shut it down, with the group’s President, Paul Willcock, referring to it as the ‘end of an era’.