London’s Top Ten Casinos
With a total of twenty eight casinos currently on offer for Londoners wanting live table games there’s never been more choice in the UK capital for those wanting a properly regulated environment with all the trimmings.
With a total of twenty eight casinos currently on offer for Londoners wanting live table games there’s never been more choice in the UK capital for those wanting a properly regulated environment with all the trimmings. There’s also a full spectrum of choice in terms of luxury, size and additional facilities like accommodation and restaurants.
To save you the bother of visiting any casinos that we think are slightly derivative or lacking some sort of Wow factor, we’ve picked out the ten best to make sure you never find yourself playing anywhere that gives you less than a 100% complete experience.
1. Aspers Stratford
This casino gets its place on our list for a number of reasons, with one overarching criteria that’s beyond dispute – and that’s its size.
Aspers Casino Westfield Stratford City – to give it its full title - is the biggest casino in Britain, built inside the biggest "in-town" shopping centre in Europe — and apart from Christmas Day it never closes. The statistics of this place are extraordinary by British standards and make it the closest thing you’ll find in the country to a true Vegas casino hotel.
Admittedly there’s no actual accommodation, no historically-inaccurate OTT theming and no unsavoury characters hanging around. There’s also nobody asking you to lend them five dollars that you’ll get back with interest when their fantastic, unbeatable new system pays off. There is, though, an impressive shopping centre to enjoy along with some great food – and the nearby Arcelor Mittel Orbit tunnel slide in the adjacent Olympic park is the world’s longest and fastest, making it a match for the raft of superlatives hurled at you whenever you go to Nevada.
There’s 65,000 square feet of gaming here, which plays host to 40 Roulette and Blackjack tables, 92 electronic terminals, a 150 seat poker room, two bars – one with a giant screen and betting facilities - and 150 slot games. On top of all this there’s also a restaurant which describes itself as “fast casual”, which presumably means there’s no strict dress code and you’ll get served quickly.
Aspers is the nickname given to the infamous John Aspinall who started up the legendary Clermont Casino in the 1960s, leading a life that was colourful to say the least. His son Damian is part of a team working under the Crown Aspinall banner after the business was bought out by Crown Resorts, and whilst the full family name is still used for the original club in Mayfair there are now four sites operating under the Aspers brand.
These casinos represent a newer, more relaxed approach with no membership cards required and very informal dress codes. Just like Vegas you can simply walk straight in, an approach representative of a very different target market to the well-heeled folk that frequent the casinos further to the West side of town. Aspers Stratford is aimed at the mass market, catering for large numbers of players who gamble small amounts each with an average predicted per head wagering level of just £15 - £20.
This is genuine casino gaming at its most casual: A trip to the shops, and then a small flutter – and there’s nothing else quite like it in the UK. At first glance it looks like a bit of a trek from the very centre of town, but between them the Central Line and the excellent Docklands Light Railway make short work of the journey and the complex is right outside the station, making it incredibly easy to get to on public transport in all types of weather.
2. The Grosvenor Victoria
Affectionately known as The Vic, this is where poker gods from the UK and overseas congregate to out-think one another and win small fortunes using nothing but their memory and intelligence. The likes of Phil Ivey and Only Connect presenter Victoria Coren (ex-European Women’s Texas Hold ‘Em Champion) like to play here as do plenty of other big names, though you’ll find them upstairs.
On the main gaming floor it’s a different story, with three Roulette tables, two Blackjack tables and a Three Card Poker table competing with 32 Electronic Roulette terminals, 20 progressive jackpot slots and a Craps table.
The latter is becoming increasingly hard to find even in London, and it’s up to the likes of The Vic to ensure that it doesn’t die out in the UK – which would be a terrible shame. The game has a reputation for complexity which is unfair, though understandable when you watch it for the first time. It’s also very labour intensive and will cost the casino quite a bit of money compared to other games, so anywhere that offers it is well worth a visit in our opinion.
The Vic has a bar, function rooms, coffee shop and a restaurant featuring an Arabic menu - perhaps a reflection of the wealthy clientele that live locally or maybe just a whim on behalf of the operator; either way the dishes are impressive and the table d’hote comes up as surprisingly affordable.
This casino is Grosvenor’s flagship UK site, though if you want to find it don’t go to the Victoria area or tube stop; the casino is actually located in Marylebone just off the Edgware Road - nearest stop Edgware Road or Marble Arch.
3. The Hippodrome
This place is nothing short of extraordinary. You may have seen it but were unaware that it’s the largest casino in the UK, which is understandable given its former status as one of London’s premier theatres.
The building originally opened in 1900 and was designed by Frank Matcham for Moss Empires (as in theatre chain Stoll Moss). It cost £250,000 and was intended for circus and variety entertainment – and it really was a quite a facility with entrance granted through a bar made to look like a ship’s saloon, and a performance space featuring an arena that sank into a 230 foot, 100,000 gallon water tank.
The tank had fountains around its edge and in its centre, and shows included equestrian acts, elephants, polar bears and acrobats diving in from a minstrel gallery via a space revealed by a sliding roof.
The seating tiers used cantilevering to avoid the use of posts that obscured the view towards the stage, and as if this wasn’t enough the entire venue was covered by a glass retractable roof – making the modern day Wembley Stadium look considerably less high tech than it’s perceived by most to be.
The Hippodrome was converted into a more standard type of theatre facility later on and operated in a similar manner to all its neighbouring stage venues until 1958, at which point it was converted into The Talk of the Town, a nightclub-style venue that was frequented by some huge stars including Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Dusty Springfield, Stevie Wonder and Neil Sedaka.
Come the 1980s this entertainment format seemed to lose its appeal and the venue was sold again, and at this point things went south for The Hippodrome. It was bought up by club owner, celebrity and self-promoting lothario Peter Stringfellow and turned into a nightclub. The majority of the theatre space was not used, with the lower area covered over with a false roof and it looked like the auditorium would never house any spectators again. However it changed hands a couple more times father and son team Jimmy and Simon Thomas acquired the site and restored all of Matcham’s original period features whilst turning it into the UKs largest casino.
The result is extraordinary: As soon as you enter you can clearly tell that it used to be a theatre, but the different seating tiers are now home to various different table games, video terminals, a poker deck, smoking, eating and drinking areas. It’s an awe-inspiring and unique place to play and has a true everyman quality to it, requiring no membership and a minimal dress code.
If you visit one London casino it needs to be this one simply because the place looks so impressive, though dig a little deeper and you’ll find all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore with a different variety of game at every turn.
4. The Grosvenor Park Tower
If you’ve ever visited London then you’ve almost certainly seen this one. It’s the iconic-looking large, round hotel on Knightsbridge just before you get to Hyde Park Corner with the casino added on at the bottom.
Drive in from Heathrow and it’s possibly the most impressive thing you’ll see after Harrods, and whilst their Victoria site is where the serious poker players go, this is undoubtedly the Grosvenor casino with the most visual appeal.
There’s just something about the exterior that conjures up images of glamorous social climbers, highly successful dynamic businesspeople and well-heeled media moguls as opposed to gormless aristos with their wits blunted after a lifetime of inherited wealth.
As well as an impressive set of tables there are a couple of bars, live sports to bet on, progressive jackpot slots, a dedicated poker room and a restaurant with both Arabic and modern European cuisine.
5. Palm Beach Casino
One of several upscale Mayfair joints owned by the Malaysian-based Genting group, Palm Beach is situated in swanky Mayfair and therefore too posh to given the standard Genting branding. You won’t find any of their trademark red and black décor or anything else to indicate the casino’s ownership here – it’s all surprisingly toned down, in fact.
Given this casino’s name it’s easy to think that it might be slightly garish inside – at least featuring a Hawaiian bar and some sort of blue sky backdrop - but this is Mayfair, not the Vegas Strip, and they don’t do it like that here.
Instead you’ll see lot of beige and brown décor, and even the gaming tables follow the same stylings. If you’ve got a huge hangover and are keen for some action at the tables we can’t think of anywhere more soothing, though the presence of the impressive Berkeley Street Bar means you’ll be back on the sauce as soon as the previous night’s excesses have worn off - and given that it’s open until 5am you’ll have plenty of time to join in the fun.
There’s a definite lack of intimidation at this casino: Other venues may try to make newbies feel at home but playing the tables for the first time can be an ordeal for anybody and Palm Beach’s Learn to Play facility is one of the best we’ve come across. Use this service and you’ll be perfectly prepared for your first forays into the wonderful world of Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat or table poker.
6. The Sportsman
This award-winning casino is a stone’s throw away from Marble Arch and very near the Grosvenor Victoria, but its origins couldn’t be more different than those of its neighbour as it belongs to Caesars, whose legendary Vegas Palace remains one of the few first generation Vegas brands to successfully thrive and reinvent itself into the 21st century.
Caesars are also the only major operation on The Strip to have successfully transplanted their casino product onto the web, so it comes as no surprise to us that they’ve managed to rock up in London’s West End and fit right in.
This place is open from 12 noon to 6am every day, and on top of an impressive collection of table games boasts an advantage that no-on else in town can bring you and that’s a loyalty programme that includes discounted rates in their Vegas hotel.
You’ll see more evidence of The Sportsman’s heritage as you look more closely at their website: They offer Vegas-style packages where for £35 per person upwards you’re given a three course meal, glass of Prosecco and free £5 gaming chip. Other packages are also available along with bespoke options like buffet dinners and Learn to Play evenings.
Don’t just gamble whilst you’re here: Do try the food as Head Chef Mahmud Zaman won Chef of the Year at the Asian Curry Awards 2015. Of all the casinos in London this is easily the one that attracts the most dining-only clients, and that tells you all you need to know. It underwent an impressive makeover in 2015 too, now offering a stunning bar, sumptuous décor and an enthralling atmosphere making it second to none on the West End food scene.
7. The Clermont Club
This is something for most of us to dream about and aspire to rather than experience on a regular basis, but it’s great that mass consumerism and globalisation hasn’t killed off places like The Clermont.
It’s situated in Berkeley Square – a fashionable address even by Mayfair standards – and comes with an extraordinary history that gives the place an instant air of illicit, yet aristocratic promise. It was first run as a public casino by the notorious John Aspinall - whose life story reads like a TV mini-series - after he had to stop running private gambling parties when the lawmakers caught up with him and introduced the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act.
Aspinall was not the first person to offer gaming on the premises – it was used as a private club from the early 19th century so it has plenty of history behind it before he arrived. The building was erected by William Kent for Lady Isabella Finch, a member of the household of King George III.
Once Aspinall arrived The Clermont was used to fleece the wealthy and titled, primarily using slightly bent cards which was enough to gain a massive house edge – though these days visitors to the club get to enjoy properly-regulated games.
The history of the place, though, still oozes out of every fixture and fitting and of all the upscale gaming venues in London this is the one that makes you feel as though you’re in a private house. There are portraits of various distinguished visitors hanging from the wall; there’s a restaurant that will easily give the nearby Dorchester a run for its money both in terms of décor and cuisine, and even an opulently-covered smoking deck complete with Blackjack and Roulette tables. If that’s not enough to satisfy you then the private rooms on offer serve as the icing on the cake.
Game-wise you’ll find Roulette. Blackjack and Baccarat with some of the highest maximum stake values in Europe, though don’t expect to see electronic roulette or slot machines anywhere. Although even some of the classiest casinos have caved in to commercial pressure and started installing terminals to boost their profits, the Clermont still remain a cut above. If you want the full James Bond experience in London, this is most certainly going to be where you’ll find it. Put on your evening wear before coming here and you’re guaranteed to fit in – and bring plenty of cash for drinks and tips.
8. Les Ambassadeurs Club
This one is very handy if you’re staying in one of the Park Lane hotels. It’s situated right between the Intercontinental and Four Seasons, and even has a main gaming room overlooking Hyde Park – which none of its illustrious Mayfair peer group can compete with.
This is the flagship site for London Clubs International, and it’s housed in an impressive mansion complete with walled garden and al fresco restaurant. Membership is required, but for that you’ll be treated like an oil sheikh round the clock. For the full experience we’d recommend the salle privee that comes with its own private dining room - or the smoking terrace.
You don’t need to be a smoker to enjoy this environment – it’s worth checking out for the sheer hell of it. There’s underfloor heating, marble-clad bathrooms, state-of-the-art all weather HD televisions, a shower room, plus a Cuban and pre-Castro cigar menu. There are six tables and a bar, and if you want more privacy they’ll put up custom-made wooden partitions for you – handy if you’re a celebrity who likes the occasional puff.
With so much luxury on tap it’s easy to forget why people come here: There’s Roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat and Three Card Poker on offer with 16 tables on the main floor, plus other facilities you won’t find elsewhere, including – amazingly – a library. If you fancy some quiet contemplation between rounds then this might be up your street, though don’t expect to find a copy of Beat the Dealer or Black Belt in Blackjack on the shelves.
This casino needs little introduction to both regulars on the London scene and online players as well. The enterprising William Crockford was not one of the in-crowd back in Regency London – but he was exceptionally and naturally gifted when it came to gambling, able to exploit loopholes that have nowadays been closed up.
He made enough to buy the club at 50 St James Place and then proceeded to exploit the aristocracy offering them top-notch cuisine, endless free drinks and quite blatantly rigging games using all kinds of sneaky tactics: He used decoy players to win huge sums in front of everyone and paid staff to gossip that the house was haemorrhaging cash to encourage large, ill-advised wagers - and there are even descendants of erstwhile wealthy family members around now who are able to accurately speculate how different their life would have been had their ancestors not played at Crockfords.
The club has moved from its original site and is now at nearby Curzon Street, owned by Malaysian gaming giant Genting – but still looks the part despite reinventing itself into a fully-equipped 21st century facility. There’s plenty of Roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat and Three Card Poker on offer and we particularly like the tasteful beige and grey hues used on the betting surfaces, which blend in beautifully with the timeless yet contemporary décor used for the rooms themselves.
Genting may be the ultimate beneficiary of anything that’s wagered and lost here, but they’re no slouches when it comes to keeping the place looking great with absolutely no hint of corporate branding detectable or any indication that this isn’t anything other than a fully-independent venue.
10. Casino at the Empire
The Empire Cinema at Leicester Square shares duties with the nearby Odeon for hosting film premieres, yet many people are unaware of the neighbouring casino sited where the Empire nightclub used to be.
Nestling among the bright lights, hustle and bustle of the capital’s entertainment hub this was never going to be a shrinking violet among gaming venues, and the journey here is as vibrant as you’ll get – but despite the glittery feel to the place it does deliver, thanks in no small part to the record five bars on offer and the superb Asian-fusion cuisine on offer.
With Chinatown immediately adjacent this should come as no surprise, yet the standard is still exceptionally high.
There are two gaming floors, and given that this is clearly anything but a discreet private members club you can expect the latest and greatest gaming technology as well as more traditional table games. Slots and electronic roulette are indeed widely-available on both floors, and there’s a dedicated multiplayer poker area for those that like to outwit other players rather than try their luck against the house odds.
You’ll find the expected Roulette, Blackjack, Punto Banco and Three Card Poker tables all present and correct, and if you ever want a break from gaming there’s still a nightclub on the premises, and you can enjoy specially-laid on events like cocktail mixing classes.
Be under no illusions: London doesn’t have a casino on every corner like Vegas or Macau, but it does offer a greater range with old school, high end, classically understated glamour only a short ride away from low spend, mass market operations that cater for the more casual player. In case of any doubt, all London casinos have websites that will fill you in on membership requirements and dress codes – and that will tell you exactly what sort of an experience you’re going to get.
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