Casino Prisma

17th Century English Gambling

The trend toward heavier play became particularly notable among nobility--- which partly in an effort to live conspicuously.

They gambled more deeply, or at least more visibly, than ever before.

Aristocrats joined in ' gambling orgies' at the Stuart court, thus identifying themselves with the increasingly popular Crown and helping to provoke the disfavor of Puritans and country squires.

The picture of peers of the realm dissipating in the royal household doubtless nettled the English revolutionaries of the mid-seventeenth century.

The saints addressed the situation when they took power from the king, but controls imposed on gambling during the Interregnum merely served to popularize the practice after the Restoration.

The courts of Charles II and James II set and unbridled pace for the rest of the country as Englishmen resumed betting where they had left off at the outbreak of revolution.

Abundant gambling earned for the period of a reputation of license and exceptional depravity. Courtiers viewed gambling as evidence of proper breeding and adopted the genteel sport of cockfighting as the most preferred game.

Encouraged by the aristocracy, the passion spread to all layers of society-- even women joined the wagering crowds at court, much to the dismay of social critics inclined to defend female 'Honour'.

A voice of reason during the age helped to mediate between gamblers and their critics. In The Compleat Gamester (1674), Charles Cotton argued that people needed recreation and suggested that each individual ought to pursue that pastime most enjoyable to him.

Cotton found gambling as useful as any other recreation, but warned that it presented pitfalls for the unwary.

One was immoderation. A bettor invited perpetual dissatisfaction by playing too hungrily for he could never win enough, and would always lose too much.

Moreover, excessive gambling brought the disreputation of being a gamester. Professional gamesters o cardsharps and cheaters, comprised another evil.

Those 'rooks', 'wolves', and 'rogues' endangered all that was honorable about gambling by turning the innocent pastime into a profession that profited from defeat and depravity.

Increasing concern about professional gamblers resulted in part from the swelling tanks of sharpers and cheaters, but it also grew out of a larger effort to regularize sport.

As bettors during the seventeenth century staked more and more money on horse races, cockfights, and card games, they sought to protect their wagers from irregular play and uncertain procedure by developing firm guidelines.

One historian notes that the regulation of games grew up not from noble motives of 'fair play', but to protect the financial investments of gamblers.

The increase in gaming thus heightened the importance of rules. An expanding body of regulations came to govern the turf, and a series of works such as Cotton's The Compleat Gamester and Edmond Hoyle's Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1741) taught readers how to play betting games properly and to detect cheating.

This regularizing of games stemmed in turn from the even broader process of the 'commercialisation of leisure' in England.