The oldest casino in the United Kingdom has been permanently shuttered owing to the lingering impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and an ongoing drought of high-rolling tourists visiting London.
Located in the capital city’s upmarket Mayfair district, Crockfords Casino had been catering to an exclusive clientele encompassing royalty and the aristocracy since 1828. However, the long-term future of the once-celebrated venue was placed in jeopardy last month when owner Genting Casinos UK Limited announced the launch of a 30-day ‘consultation process’.
The President of Genting Casinos UK Limited, Paul Willcock, stated that this examination ultimately determined the 195-year-old property should be closed owing to a ‘combination of factors’ including a drop in business brought on by the coronavirus pandemic alongside a significant decrease in the number of wealthy punters to its 13 gaming tables.
Willcock went on to assert that this latter component was made worse by the government’s decision to scrap VAT-free shopping for foreign tourists following the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union in 2021. A recent study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research determined this ‘tourist tax’ is annually costing the country as much as £10.7 billion ($13 billion) while simultaneously making locales in Spain and Italy much more attractive shopping destinations.
“There is a combination of factors that have put high-end London casinos at a competitive disadvantage to other global market places and this has led to an unsustainable future for Crockfords Casino in Mayfair,” Willcock said.
Numerous high street retailers, including Watches of Switzerland and Mulberry, recently asked British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to abolish the ‘tourist tax’ while the operator of the country’s Grosvenor Casinos chain, Rank Group, complained in July that its venues were being held back as cash-rich gamblers from the Middle East were choosing Paris and Milan over London.
The United Kingdom’s high-end land-based casinos are thought to annually contribute around £150 million ($181.6 million) in tax while simultaneously generating as much as £188 million ($227.6 million) for London’s economy alongside at least £120 million ($145.2 million) in additional tourism spend.
The decision to close the £80 million ($97 million) Crockfords Casino has left up to 100 people facing immediate redundancy with Willcock having gone on to describe the move as the ‘end of an era’. Nevertheless, the casino chief declared Birmingham-headquartered Genting Casinos UK Limited ‘highly values’ its employees and is ‘committed to our duty of care to them’.
Crockfords Casino was initially established by working-class fishmonger William Crockford as a private members club and helped its proprietor to become one of England’s wealthiest self-made men. The west London venue went on to benefit from a gambling craze that swept the upper classes of English society throughout the late-1800s before more recently becoming a regular haunt for sports stars, celebrities and politicians including Bjorn Borg, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Zac Goldsmith.
For the more uninitiated, Crockfords Casino is probably best known as the site where American poker player Phil Ivey was denied a £7.7 million ($9.3 million) baccarat win due to allegations he had cheated. The Californian denied all allegations of misconduct at the time and was allowed to recover his initial £1 million ($1.2 million) stake but failed to take home his full prize despite taking the matter all the way to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.