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State Regulation of Gaming This PowerPoint presentation aims to make use of extracts from The Times newspaper, political cartoons, and images from Pathé Newsreels, to explore the question of State regulation of Gaming in modern Britain. Roy Wolfe State Regulation of Gaming

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State Regulation of Gaming

This PowerPoint presentation aims to make use of extracts from The Times newspaper, political cartoons, and images from Pathé Newsreels, to explore the question of State regulation of Gaming in modern Britain.

Roy Wolfe

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State Regulation of Gaming

Casinos are still for most people more readily associated with Monte Carlo and Baden Baden than the more homely surroundings of Reading or Salford. They are for Britain a comparatively recent innovation. Lawful casino gambling was made possible for the first time by the Betting and Gaming Act 1960. Within a few years casinos were flourishing like weeds in many parts of the country.

Royal Commission on Gambling (Rothschild Report) Cmnd.7200 July 1978

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State Regulation of Gaming

  • TIMELINE
  • 1845 - Gaming Act
  • 1854 – Gaming Houses Act
  • 1906 – Street Betting Act
  • 1951 – Royal Commission on Betting, Gaming & Lotteries
  • 1960 – Betting & Gaming Act
  • 1968 - Gaming Act -> Gaming Board of Great Britain
  • 1978 – Royal Commission on Gambling (Rothschild)
  • 2001 – Gambling Review Report (Budd)
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Pathé newsreel portrayed images of social exclusivity and the exotic foreignness of casino gaming – available to both men women with the financial means. (1936)

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Under the Gaming Act 1845, games of chance (rather than “mere skill”) such as roulette, bacarrat and even poker, were held by the courts to be illegal, and criminal charges were brought against those organising such activities.

Charges were brought under the Gaming Houses Act, 1854, which made it an offence to keep a house for “unlawful gaming”.

Reports commented on gender and class.

10 June 1919

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Under the Gaming Act 1845, games of chance (rather than “mere skill”) such as roulette, bacarrat and even poker, were held by the courts to be illegal, and criminal charges were brought against those organising such activities.

Charges were brought under the Gaming Houses Act, 1854, which made it an offence to keep a house for “unlawful gaming”.

Reports commented on gender and class.

10 February 1939

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The Times leader welcomes the recommendations of the Royal Commission to reform the law on betting and gaming, but not to permit casinos. 10 April 1951

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"The gambling problem must be viewed as a phase of the entire crime picture. Organised gambling is a vicious evil, it corrupts our youth and blights the lives of our adults, becomes a springboard of other crimes of embezzlement, robbery and even murder. But, like any other type of crime it can be controlled.

If the laws against gambling were ultimately on the state and local statute books and were earnestly and vigorously enforced, organised gambling could be eliminated in forty eight hours from any community in this land. No criminal, the gambler and his allies included, can long stand up against a determined, intelligent and informed public opinion.”

Senate crime investigation committee, Washington DC, USA J. Edgar Hoover (Chief of FBI),

August 1951 (Pathé Newsreel)

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The Times leader broadly welcomed the provisions of the Bill on Betting and Gaming after considerable delay.

Casino gaming was not envisaged, and was thought likely to lead to “. . . extravagance, and financial ruin . . .”

“Gambling is always potentially, and sometimes actually, evil and a social menace.”

3 November 1959

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The law was changed by the Betting and Gaming Act 1960, which unintentionally opened the floodgates to organised gaming.

Commercial organisations soon took advantage of uncertainty in the law, and organised crime infiltrated the industry.

19 November 1966

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In 1963, Pathé newsreel captured “French style” gaming in London’s River Club, mentioning a variation in the way roulette is played in order to appear to comply with the Gaming Laws.

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Pathé newsreel showing American style of roulette adopted by Playboy in 1965, boosting its flagging profits in the 1970s until flouting of the Gaming regulations led to the Gaming Board withdrawing their licences.

The Times reports Playboy casino profits to have risen to $7,600,000, 1 April 1975, boosted by oil-rich customers from the Middle East.

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The case of George Raft exemplifies the problem the government faced in the mid-1960s, as organised crime infiltrated the gaming industry. Mr Raft’s London publicity agent said the problem was that the actor “has never been able to shake off the gangster image” created by his film roles.

Above: New York Times, 2 April, 1955Right: The Times, London, 24 February, 1967

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The Law Courts had to interpret the badly drafted laws. After the Gaming Act 1968 was passed, the newly established Gaming Board considered banning Roulette with a zero (2.7% to the Bank), but finally bowed to pressure from the gaming industry (The Times, 22 November, 1969) - and the game survived with the zero.

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The Church Council on Gambling warned of criminal involvement in gaming. The government hoped that the Gaming Act 1968 would be effective in eliminating criminal involvement (Daily Sketch, 30-10-1969)

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In 1968 the Gaming Board was given wide-ranging powers which the courts have tended to support. Has the Gaming Board been successful in fulfilling its aims?

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Annual Report of the Gaming Board of Great Britain, 2003, showing regional distribution of total “drop” in British casinos 2000 – 2003.

London’s casinos contribute 80% of the duty raised.

Law Reports can reveal the size of stakes wagered. E.g. on the night of the 13 February 1997 Lydiashourne permitted a Mr Al Shamlan, from Kuwait, to stake £ 6,719,000-worth of chips, which he lost.

His cheques were dishonoured, but the casino was held liable to pay the state over £2m. in duty.

See LYDIASHOURNE LIMITED v THE COMMISSIONERS OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE (LLR 261 2000) Court of Appeal, Civil Division.

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Conclusion

Pathé newsreel, and The Times both provide evidence of shifts and changes in official attitudes towards gaming, from banning (19th century laws), to inept reform (1960), and then to tight regulation (1968).

In 2003 we find that Government are proposing radical deregulation of gaming laws, though it remains to be seen if legislation will be passed.

further information online
Further Information online
  • The Budd Report (July 2001)Review which recommended deregulation
  • Budd Report BibliographyAppended bibliography
  • Gaming Board for Great BritainAnnual reports from regulation authority
  • Gaming Regulation and Taxation of Casinos (HC May 2000)Data on state income from gaming