Horse Race Card Drinking Game

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The history of gambling in the United Kingdom goes back centuries, as do efforts to deplore it, and regulate it.


Tudor and Stuart eras[edit]

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Spas such as Bath, Epsom, and Tunbridge Wells became popular after 1550 for the rich. They enjoyed lawn bowling and dancing, as well as medical benefits. Puritan pamphleteers such as Philip Stubbes warned that these ‘tubs of pleasure’ made drinking, gambling, and illicit sex available to all visitors.[2][3]

Although Restoration England 1660–1689 featured a revulsion against Puritanism, gambling was seen as a stupid folly. Playwrights depicted gambling at dice, cards, and the tables as an aristocratic folly. After 1688 plays portrayed gambling more as vice than folly. Comedies and periodicals in the early 18th century portrayed gamblers disapprovingly.[4]


In 1566–1569 Queen Elizabeth launched England’s first national public lottery to raise money to repair the harbors. However, only 10 percent of the 400,000 lots were purchased. Local elites were often hostile, because of distrust of the government and concerns about the immorality of gambling.[5]The lottery was promoted by scrolls posted throughout the country showing sketches of the prizes. The tickets were sold in 1566–1569, and the prize money was awarded in 1569, so each player got his money back and in effect was making an interest-free loan. In later decades, the government sold the lottery ticket rights to brokers, who in turn hired agents and runners to sell them. These brokers eventually became the modern day stockbrokers for various commercial ventures. Most people could not afford the entire cost of a lottery ticket, so the brokers would sell shares in a ticket; this resulted in tickets being issued with a notation such as ‘Sixteenth’ or ‘Third Class’.[6]

Many private lotteries were held, including raising money for The Virginia Company of London to support its settlement in America at Jamestown. The English State Lottery ran from 1694 until 1826. Thus, the English lotteries ran for over 250 years, until the government, under constant pressure from the opposition in parliament, declared a final lottery in 1826. This lottery was held up to ridicule by contemporary commentators as ‘the last struggle of the speculators on public credulity for popularity to their last dying lottery’.[7]

Horse racing[edit]

In the 18th century, horse racing became well-established. Newmarket and the Jockey Club set the standards but most of the racing took place for small cash prizes and enormous local prestige in landowners’ fields and in the rising towns. The system of wagering was essential to the funding and the growth of the industry, and all classes participated from the poor to royalty. High society was in control, and they made a special effort to keeping the riff-raff out and the criminal element away from the wagering. With real money at stake, the system needed skilled jockeys, trainers, grooms and experts at breeding, thereby opening new prestigious careers for working-class rural men. Every young. ambitious stable boy could dream of making it big.[15]

18th century[edit]

Lotteries loosened the money pouches of previously uninvolved individuals. Frequent purchasers of lottery tickets were called ‘adventurers’, And then their friends were the center of untold conversations about what they would do with the fortunes they were about to win. Advertising for the lottery help funded fund the newspapers, and reports on the winner helped sell copies. Britain had succumbed to ‘gambling mania’.[17] With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Britton entered a century of peace, and lotteries were no longer necessary to finance wars. Government lotteries were abolished in 1826.[18]

In the private sphere, distinctly different styles of gambling took place in the upper, middle and working classes. In the upper classes, gambling the family fortune was very common, with high-stakes and high losses — called ‘deep play’. The venue was private clubs, which had an atmosphere that controlled against violence or vehement behavior.[19][20] The most notorious case was the politician Charles James Fox In three years in his early 20s he ran up £120,000 of losses at the faro tables. Fox was a highly influential politician supported by very rich political allies who regularly covered his losses, but his political enemies rhetorically attacked his heavy losses.[21]

In the middle class, a business orientation meant that recreational gambling at home was moderate, with limited stakes, and the goal of camaraderie and genial conversation rather than winning money. The middle classes rejected blood sports, and discovered that music, conversation and cards suited their taste for exercise of intellect and ability. Young people were allowed to play too, so they could learn to calculate quickly in their minds, and account for money lost and won. [22]

19th century[edit]

Horse Race Game With Cards

Gambling at cards in establishments popularly called casinos became the rage during the Victorian era. The evangelical and reform movements specifically targeted such establishments in their efforts to stop gambling, drinking, and prostitution.[27]

Upper-class England gambled heavily, usually in swank private clubs in the St. James district of the West End of London.

20th century[edit]

Labour Party[edit]

Greyhound racing[edit]

Second World War[edit]

Roger Munting points out that in the 1980s:

Gambling is big business in contemporary Britain. Betting shops are seen in every high street, bingo games occupy redundant cinemas, every national newspaper provides a racing service and news of football pools; many operate their own form of lottery. There have even been proposals that a lottery competition provide marginal finance for the National Health Service.[40]

21st century[edit]

Gambling Act of 2005[edit]


Problem gambling[edit]

Horse Race Card Drinking Game Rules

See also[edit]


  1. ^Heasim Sul, ‘The tubs of pleasure: Tudor and Stuart Spas.’ International journal of the history of sport 16.1 (1999): 148–158.
  2. ^Sydney Carter, ‘Phillip Stubbes: An Elizabethan Puritan’ History Today (April 1953) 3#4 pp 271–276.
  3. ^ James E. Evans, ‘A sceane of uttmost vanity’: The Spectacle of Gambling in Late Stuart Culture.’ Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 31.1 (2002): 1–20. Online
  4. ^ David Dean, ‘Elizabeth’s Lottery: Political Culture and State Formation in Early Modern England.’ Journal of British Studies 50.3 (2011): 587–611. Online
  5. ^John Ashton, A History of English Lotteries, (1893) online
  6. ^Ashton, A History of English Lotteries, (1893) p 274
  7. ^Mike Huggins, Flat racing and British society, 1790–1914: A social and economic history (Routledge, 2014).
  8. ^Anne Holland, Horse racing in Britain and Ireland (2014.)
  9. ^Paul Hurley (2014). Chester in the 1950s: Ten Years that Changed a City. Amberley. p. 69. ISBN9781445636917.
  10. ^John Eunson (2012). Sporting Scots: How Scotland Brought Sport to the World–and the World Wouldn’t Let Us Win. p. 88. ISBN9781845024253.
  11. ^Robert Black (1891). The Jockey Club and Its Founders: In Three Periods. Smith, Elder.
  12. ^J.S. Fletcher (1902). The history of the St. Leger stakes, 1776–1901. Hutchinson & co.
  13. ^Mike Huggins (2013). Horseracing and the British 1919–30. Manchester UP. p. 106. ISBN9781847795755.
  14. ^Mike Huggins, Horse Racing and British Society in the Long Eighteenth Century (2018(, see Online review
  15. ^Harvey Edward Fisk (1920). English Public Finance from the Revolution of 1688: With Chapters on the Bank of England. Bankers Trust Company. p. 109.
  16. ^Bob Harris, ‘Lottery Adventuring in Britain, c. 1710–1760.’ English Historical Review 133.561 (2018): 284–322.
  17. ^Roger Munting, ‘Betting and Business; The Commercialisation of Gambling in Britain.’ Business History 31.4 (1989): 67–85.
  18. ^Cheryl Bolen, ‘The Great Georgian Gambling Epidemic’ The Regency Plume (May-June 2006)online
  19. ^George Otto Trevelyan (1880). The Early History of Charles James Fox. Longmans, Green. pp. 527–28.
  20. ^Gillian Russell, ‘Faro’s Daughters’: Female Gamesters, Politics, and the Discourse of Finance in 1790s Britain.’ Eighteenth-Century Studies 33.4 (2000): 481–504. Online
  21. ^Janet E. Mullin, A sixpence at whist: gaming and the English middle classes 1680–1830 (2015)
  22. ^Andrew August, The British Working Class 1832–1940 (2017) p. 51–54
  23. ^ David C. Itzkowitz, ‘Victorian bookmakers and their customers.’ Victorian Studies 32.1 (1988): 7–30. Online
  24. ^Wray Vamplew, The turf: A social and economic history of horse racing (1976).
  25. ^James Lambie, The Story of Your Life: A History of the Sporting Life Newspaper (1859–1998) (2010) Excerpts
  26. ^Peter Bailey, Leisure and class in Victorian England: Rational recreation and the contest for control, 1830–1885 (Routledge, 2014)
  27. ^John Briggs etc (1996). Crime and Punishment in England: An Introductory History. UCL Press. pp. 201–2. ISBN9781137081780.
  28. ^Jan McMillen (2005). Gambling Cultures: Studies in History and Interpretation. Routledge. pp. 125–26. ISBN9781134916481.
  29. ^Gregg McClymont, ‘Socialism, Puritanism, Hedonism: The Parliamentary Labour Party’s Attitude to Gambling, 1923–31.’ Twentieth Century British History 19.3 (2008): 288–313.
  30. ^Martin Pugh (2010). Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party. p. 22. ISBN9781847920089.
  31. ^ Keith Laybourn, ‘‘There Ought not to be One Law for the Rich and Another for the Poor which Is the Case To‐day’: The Labour Party, Lotteries, Gaming, Gambling and Bingo, c. 1900–c. 1960s.’ History 93.310 (2008): 201–223.
  32. ^ Norman Baker, ‘Going to the Dogs — Hostility to Greyhound Racing in Britain: Puritanism, Socialism and Pragmaticism.’ Journal of Sport History 23.2 (1996): 97–119. Online
  33. ^Mike Huggins, ‘Going to the dogs.’ History Today 56.5 (2006): 31+.
  34. ^Daryl Leeworthy, ‘A diversion from the new leisure: greyhound racing, working-class culture, and the politics of unemployment in inter-war South Wales.’ Sport in History 32.1 (2012): 53–73.
  35. ^Mike Huggins, ‘Sports gambling during the Second World War: a British entertainment for critical times or a national evil?.’ International Journal of the History of Sport 32.5 (2015): 667–683.
  36. ^Particulars of Licensed tracks, table 1 Licensed Dog Racecourses. Licensing Authorities. 1946.
  37. ^’’Stock Exchange.’ Times, 17 Apr. 1947, p. 9'. The Times Digital Archive.
  38. ^’We are the governing body for licensed greyhound racing’. Greyhound Board of Great Britain.
  39. ^Munting, ‘Betting and Business; The Commercialisation of Gambling in Britain.’ (1989) p 67.
  40. ^’About GBGB’. Greyhound Board of Great Britain.
  41. ^Roy Light, ‘The Gambling Act 2005: Regulatory containment and market control.’ The Modern Law Review 70.4 (2007): 626–653.
  42. ^ abWardle, Heather; Sproston, Kerry; Orford, Jim; Erens, Bob; Griffiths, Mark; Constantine, Rebecca; Pigott, Sarah (September 2007). ‘British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007’(PDF). National Centre for Social Research. p. 10. Archived from the original(PDF) on November 28, 2009.

Horse Race Card Drinking Game

Further reading[edit]

  • Baker, Norman. ‘Going to the Dogs’ — Hostility to Greyhound Racing in Britain: Puritanism, Socialism and Pragmatism,’ Journal of Sport History 23 (1996): 97–118.
  • Clapson, Mark. A Bit of a Flutter: Popular Gambling and English Society, c.1823–1961 (Manchester UP, 1992)
  • Clarke, C.F.C. Greyhounds and Greyhound Racing: A Comprehensive and Popular Survey of Britain’s Latest Sport (1934)
  • Dixon, David. From Prohibition to Regulation: Bookmaking, Anti-Gambling, and the Law (1991) online
  • Forrest, David. ‘An economic and social review of gambling in Great Britain.’ Journal of Gambling Business and Economics 7.3 (2013): 1–33.
  • Forrest, David. ‘The past and future of the British football pools.’ Journal of Gambling Studies 15.2 (1999): 161–176.
  • Huggins, Mike. ‘Betting, sport and the British, 1918–1939.’ Journal of Social History (2007): 283–306.
  • Huggins, Mike. ‘“Everybody’s going to the dogs”? The middle classes and greyhound racing in Britain between the wars.’ Journal of Sport History 34.1 (2007): 96–120. Online
  • Huggins, Mike. Flat racing and British society, 1790–1914: A social and economic history (Routledge, 2014)
  • Laybourn, Keith. Working-Class Gambling in Britain c. 1906–1960s: The Stages of the Political Debate (2007).
  • Huggins, Mike. Horseracing and the British 1919–1939 (Manchester UP, 2002).
  • Munting, Roger. ‘Social opposition to gambling in Britain: an historical overview.’ International Journal of the History of Sport 10.3 (1993): 295–312. Online
  • Munting, Roger. An economic and social history of gambling in Britain and the USA (Manchester UP, 1996).
  • Reith, Gerda. ‘The culture of gambling in Great Britain: Legislative and social change.’ in Crime, Addiction and the Regulation of Gambling (Brill Nijhoff, 2008). 165–179.
  • Richard, Jessica. The romance of gambling in the eighteenth-century British novel (Springer, 2011).
  • Schwartz, David G. Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling (2006), scholarly history with global perspective excerpt; UK is covered in chapters 6, 8, 15

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