At almost 200 years old and located smack bang in the middle of London’s classy Mayfair district, Crockford’s is the oldest casino on the British Isles.
Yet soon it will close its doors for good following a consultation between the local authorities and its owners who have decided that the establishment is no longer fit for purpose.
The move comes as a shock for those in London’s entertainment industry where Crockford’s has provided casino entertainment for high-profile visitors since the days of King George IV in the early 19th century.
But why have the powers-to-be decided to close this famous venue? Here’s the full story.
Like many of Britain’s old Georgian establishments, Crockford’s has a colourful and vibrant history. Formed in 1828 by former fishmonger William Crockford, the casino flourished thanks to the popularity of gambling back then.
Back then, of course, internet casinos and no deposit bonuses in the UK were a distant dream, so people’s only chance of enjoying the likes of roulette and blackjack were to go to their local casino venue.
Yet, Crockford’s wasn’t just any old casino. It specifically targeted rich clientele who had buckets of money to spend on entertainment. The casino relocated to the heart of London’s Mayfair, attracting high rollers from around the world seeking the thrills and excitement it had become synonymous with.
With the house edge firmly stacked in Crockford’s favour, William Crockford enjoyed healthy profits for over a century as the casino went from strength to strength, and he and his family became some of the UK’s richest people.
The casino’s downfall
The good times lasted at Crockford’s until the late 20th century, by which point the arrival of online casinos and a downturn in gambling culture led to financial problems for the old institution.
In 2017, it found itself embroiled in a legal battle with renowned poker player Phil Ivey, who attempted to claim £7.7 million in winnings from a game of baccarat. The casino suspected foul play, leading to a high-profile dispute that was eventually settled, with Ivey retrieving his initial £1 million stake.
Since then, the pandemic has intensified Crockford’s financial woes, with London struggling to draw in high-end tourists. Some commentators have blamed the introduction of the “tourist tax” that abolished VAT-free shopping for tourists in 2021 following the UK’s departure from the EU.
Yet it’s fair to say that the challenges to famous British gambling establishments haven’t just been confined to Crockfords. Both The Ritz and The Clermont have faced closure in recent years after the capital’s declining status as a global gambling hub started to eat into the entertainment industry. This is evident in the lower tax contributions from high-end casinos, thought to generate hundreds of millions for the UK economy at one point.
The end of an era
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Paul Willcock, President of Genting Casinos UK, lamented the closure of Crockfords, marking it as a significant loss in London’s gambling and hospitality industry and signifying the end of an illustrious era in the city’s history.
“There is a combination of factors which have put high-end London casinos at a competitive disadvantage to other global marketplaces and this has led to an unsustainable future for Crockfords in Mayfair,” he said.
The casino’s closure has left its 100 employees facing the prospect of redundancy or potential relocation to other casinos within the Genting group, and there are fears that more big entertainment institutions might be hit.
Not the last?
The closure of Crockfords Casino serves as a reminder of the challenging economic climate that the United Kingdom has been grappling with in recent times. While the casino’s shutdown has generated a lot of nostalgia for a bygone era, it also raises concerns about the potential fate of other iconic venues in the country.
The casino’s closure has led experts to call for funding for the UK’s hospitality and tourism sectors, which have been particularly hard-hit by the combination of global economic downturns and local policy changes.
Targeted policies that promote the UK’s attractiveness to global tourists, as well as providing robust support to businesses struggling in the wake of economic upheavals, will be crucial in preventing the loss of more entertainment venues.