8th August 1845. Having a Flutter.
‘A misdemeanour such as cheating at cards was regarded as more shameful than such sins as murder and adultery…might well cause a gentleman of sensitive honour to make away with himself ‘ : Clouds of Witness, D.L.Sayers.
The 1845 Gaming Act dated Today amended the law concerning Gaming and Wagers which had been on the Statute Book since Henry VIII.(1)
The new Act which banned all casinos and gaming establishments was influenced by Clapham Sect Evangelicals as the Rev Thomas Gisborne, notable for saying, ‘the Master of the House should not attend savage spectacle of the cockpit and boxing matches nor engage in ruinous occupation of race courses and gaming tables. Rather he should in the evenings sit with family reading history and poetry and other enlightening pursuits’.
The revived Puritanism of the early 19thc saw Lotteries abolished in 1826 as, ‘the inducement to gambling held out by lotteries was a great moral evil, helping to impoverish many, and diverting attention from the more legitimate industrial modes of moneymaking’. Thus ended ‘Blanks and Prizes’ the jocular reference to lottery losers and winners.
It was a moral drive from the pulpit and elsewhere which set the tone for Victorian Britain well into the 20thc.
The novelist Jane Austen familiar with the views of Gisborne and others however regarded gaming in a small way, as relief for boredom, with card games portrayed in Mansfield Park, though where it involved ruinous sums as with Mr. Wickham was ‘beyond the pale’.
However despite The Gaming Act the rich in country houses carried on as usual as highlighted by the Tranby Croft Scandal involving Sir William Gordon-Cumming(Bart). The baronet was charged with cheating at baccarat at a house-party at the home of shipping magnate, Sir Arthur Wilson, attended by Edward, Prince of Wales.
Gordon-Cumming was forced to write a confession never to play cards again in exchange for silence, but when the scandal became public Cumming brought a charge of libel against Wilson, in proceedings, which was ticket only, before the Lord Chief Justice.
Edward was called as a witness, the first time since 1411 for an heir to the throne, Cumming lost his case, dismissed the army and banished from High Society, with The Times saying: ‘The mortal offence means that Society can know him no more’.
Gamblers come from all classes, the aristocracy just do it bigger; the Hastings’ Family lost its estates in the 19thc, and the 11th Duke of Devonshire in the 20thc once confided that his chemin de fer losses often ran to five figures [at illegal premises], this when trying to save Chatsworth from the taxman.
Laws were relaxed on gambling in the mid-20thc.
(1) Relating to an ‘Act passed in the reign of King Henry the eighth intituled (sic) The Bill for maintaining Artillery, and the debarring of unlawful Games whereby any Game or mere skill such as Bowling, Coyting, Cloyshcayls, Half Bowl, Tennis…which regulated the making, selling or using Bows and Arrows…[ which] requires Mayors, Sheriffs, Bailiffs, Constables…within every City, Borough and Town…to make search weekly or at The farthest Once a Month….shall be repealed.’
The Times. 10th June 1891 p.9.
Google Books. Mike Atherton, 2007.
Daily Mail. 25.7.2007.Ray Connelly. Secrets of Clermont Con.