Whether you’re the sort of high roller who’s ushered into a private room on entering or simply someone fancies a flutter on a night out in London, there are a host of stylish options for an evening spent chasing down Lady Luck.
If you’re a first-timer, cast aside all notions of casinos as gangster-run joints filled with shady types. Today’s casinos are slick, professional operations filled with people who are simply looking to play a few games and have a drink and a bite to eat in a truly unique setting.
For high-roller casinos such as the Ritz Club, dressing up is de rigueur, but other casinos have a more relaxed dress code. Don’t forget to check membership policy before you go, too, as some require 24 hours notice for membership applications. However, casinos such as the huge Aspers at Stratford’s Westfield Centre allow you to come in and play straight away.
The late John Aspinall was a colourful character, and his iconic Mayfair club reflects that. Traditionally where the aristocracy came to gamble away their inheritances, this is lounge-London at its most louche. It’s set in two handsome Georgian townhouses and includes three private gaming salons. These days, the club – and John’s pet project, Howlett’s Zoo in Kent – is run by his son Damian. A truly fabulous place to discover where Old London comes to cavort… aspinallsclub.com
Aspers , as John was affectionately known, died in 2000, aged 74. Which is possibly just as well – the rakish old aristo might well have had a seizure upon learning that his name was being used by the family to launch a joint venture at Westfield Stratford City. The sort of place Homer Simpson might go to have a flutter after bowling, this is the man-on-the-street’s casino. And none the worse for it – we are nothing if not democratic. Relaxed dress code, no membership required – what’s not to like? Just don’t tell Aspers – he’d be spinning like a roulette ball in his (presumably) opulent mausoleum… aspersstratford.co.uk
This is Old Mayfair at its most rarified. The Colony Club is legendary for its effortless style that whispers – never shouts – money. Fine dining is elevated to religious levels with the famous wood-panelled restaurant by polished-mirror walls and columns. Middle-eastern, oriental and Asian cuisine are specialities, while at the Teppan-Yaki Bar it’s Japanese food theatre, with sushi and sashimi expertly prepared right in front of you. And the gaming’s not too shabby – the Colony has more than 20 tables, serving up cold cuts of blackjack, all flavours of poker, baccarat and, of course, roulette. Those shy about conspicuous extravagance can avail themselves of the private room. Discretion is guaranteed – winning, sadly, is not. thecolonyclub.com
Were you to ask a duke or a dealer (antiques or arms, not drugs) to name the most prestigious old-school casino in Mayfair, we’d be willing to wager a wedge of our (very) hard-earned that they’d come back with either the Colony Club or Crockford’s. The latter’s impressive claim to fame is that it is the world’s oldest private gaming club. It’s suitably impressive in presence as well, housed as it is within a Grade-I listed Georgian mansion. American Roulette, Blackjack, Punto Banco, Three Card Poker and WSOP (World Series of Poker) can be played at the tables and private rooms are also available. And the restaurant has a solid reputation for fine wine and cuisine. crockfords.com
This is almost certainly where James Bond would have felt most comfortable, sipping his vodka martini – shaken, not shtirred, natch – while playing baccarat and keeping an eye on Blofeld or Le Chiffre or whoever (please don’t write in to correct us). It’s sited at the opulent May Fair Hotel, in the former former Grand Art Deco Ballroom, and lays claim to being one of the largest gaming rooms in London. It’s open to all guests staying at The May Fair, with a wide variety of games including American Roulette, Blackjack, Punto Banco and Three Card Poker available to play until 6am. And those shy millionaires will be pleased to learn that, like the Colony Club and Crockford’s, private rooms are available, with their own entrances separate to those of the hotel and public lobby of the casino.
The Ritz Club
To call the Ritz Club a casino is a little like calling a Ferrari a runaround. Technically true, but it misses the point. Yes, there are gaming tables – but membership confers far greater benefit. Relax in the splendidly plush environs, invite a business contact to sample the breathtaking range of fine cognacs and whiskeys or use the concierge to source impossibly hot tickets in London – and make use of the fleet of luxury limos to get you there. Of course, it is a casino as well, with a main gaming room and a Salle Prive, catering for American poker, three card poker, punto banco and blackjack. Stepping out in style in London means putting on the Ritz… theritzclub.com
Housed in a take-your-breath-away-grand house in Hamilton Place – a former hunting lodge used by King Henry VIII, or at least that’s what he told Catherine of Aragon, the naughty scamp – Les A, as it is known to those in the know, is a 24-hour affair. Blackjack, poker, punto banco and roulette are all served up in the main gaming room, while there is also a smoking gaming area along with a concierge service. A-class… lesaclub.com