The United Kingdom has a long and storied history of gambling, and many visitors to the country enjoy a trip to the races at one of many iconic courses the country has to offer, or an evening enjoying games in an old-school London casino. 

While it isn’t a major gambling destination like Las Vegas or Macau, there are still numerous events that attract a global audience, and many of the nation’s favourite sports, such as football and cricket, attract bettors week in and week out. 

Whether poker is your game of choice, or you prefer betting on major sporting events, you’ll find plenty of gambling options during your visit to the UK. 


1. Casinos in the UK

Casinos have always been popular in the UK, with roots stretching way back to the gambling dens of the 17th and 18th Centuries — these were frequented by lower and upper classes alike and were often secretive members-only societies.

Nowadays, casinos are above board and just as popular, as their online counterparts — players in the UK regularly access all kinds of classic casino games with appealnig options like cutting-edge slots and live roulette online from mobile apps. 

If you’ve been to  Las Vegas or any other major casino destination around the world, you’ll immediately notice some differences with the UK scene. A big casino in Vegas will typically have thousands of slot machines, dozens of card tables, and roulette wheels to spare — the game selection in the UK is much, much smaller. You won’t find huge, decadent concerts in UK casinos, and you probably won’t get in at all if you come kitted out in a cowboy hat and flip-flops. 

Just as you do online, you’ll find plenty of poker tournaments in the casinos, and some claim the game has usurped blackjack as the nation’s favourite card game. Unless you’re a real high roller, you may prefer to spectate at some of the bigger tournaments — among the biggest is the Grosvenor Tour, where prize money can reach up to £1 million.

The World Series Of Poker (WSOP) also stops in London on its way around the globe, attracting the world’s top players, competing for prize money up to £7 million. 


2. A Day At The Races

There is a strong tradition of horse racing all across the UK, and thoroughbred racing has been known as the “Sport of Kings” since the 17th Century, due to its popularity with royalty and aristocracy.

Racecourse meetings attract huge crowds, and many events have their own traditions and dress codes — the hats on display during Ladies’ Day at Ascot, for example. Some of the events themselves have very long histories — the Kiplingcotes Derby has been running since 1519, and among the five classics the St Leger Stakes is the oldest, first run in 1776.

Other classics are The Derby, 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, and The Oaks. Going for a day at the races is about more than just gambling — it’s as much a family event as it is one for seasoned bettors. 

By far the most popular race among casual fans of horse racing is the Grand National, run at Aintree in April each year. It’s a challenging National Hunt steeplechase race which features many famous (and some controversial) jumps.

You’ll find many Brits having a flutter, often choosing their steed by its name rather than its odds. Famous winners have even entered the public consciousness — 3-time winner Red Rum is a name that resonates far beyond the world of racing. 


3. Unusual Events

The British have a reputation for eccentricity, and one traditional event in the calendar is the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, held in Gloucestershire.

In bygone days only locals would compete in the highly dangerous race, where contestants pursue a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down a precariously steep hill, complete with rabbit holes, clumps of earth and other ankle-breaking hazards. But now, the event has an international following, with competitors and curious spectators traveling from around the world to watch and take part in the spectacle. 

And yes, you’ve guessed it — it’s popular with bettors, and many online betting sites give odds on the runners, though these odds may not be based in any kind of reality. Still, it’s another fun thing to check out, and if you fancy it, have a flutter on, as are many unusual events you can find at many bookmakers. 


Gamblers travelling to the UK are spoilt for choice. Casino games, horse racing, and many other betting options are familiar, but all with a distinctly British style and charm. If you need more inspiration for your trip, view our guide to the best places to travel in the United Kingdom.