‘Peaky Blinders’ and the evolution of gambling in the UK

The critically acclaimed television series follows a family of Irish Traveller mobsters in Birmingham, England, in 1919.

The show is set just a few months after the end of the First World War. Centering around the notorious ‘Peaky Blinders’ gang and their charismatic leader, Tommy Shelby played by Cillian Murphy. The gang comes to the attention of Major Chester Campbell, a Detective Chief Inspector sent over by Winston Churchill, where he had been sent to clean up the city. Based on real life events, a key date in the series is 3 December 1919 – “Black Star Day”, which is where the Peaky Blinders plan to violently take over notorious gang leader, Billy Kimber’s betting pitches at the Worcester Races.

The second season sees the family expand their criminal organisation across England whilst maintaining a stronghold in their Birmingham heartland. It begins in 1921 and ends with a climax at Epsom racecourse on 31 May 1922 – Derby Day.

Racecourses haven’t always been the jolly, party filled spectacle like we know today, Much of the chaotic scenes shown in the TV series were inspired by the real gangs, real gangs, illegally operating at lawless race meetings. Back then, bookies used the gangs as protection.

Following the Gaming Act 1845, the only legal place to gamble in England was at race courses, the introduction of special excursion trains enabled all classes of society to attend racecourses across the UK. As depicted by the Peaky Blinders TV show, there was a boom in racing and gambling with vast sums of money being placed. Opportunistic gangs saw this as a way to make their money and expand their empire, not dissimilar to a modern day Mafia.

Modern Day Gambling Within the UK

Following this The UK government stepped in, some 40 years later in 1960 by giving the go-ahead for betting shops to open for business. From the 1st May 1961 betting shops opened at a rate of 100 a week. After six months there were 10,000 set up with over 1000 casinos in the first five years. Two more Gaming Acts in 1963 and 1968 introduced licences for other forms of gaming, however loopholes allowed almost anyone to open a casino and as a result, many of them became a cover for criminal activity much like the racecourses of the 1920s.

In 1970 a new Gaming Act put far greater restrictions on all gaming, including bingo and slot machines, now subject to licence and placed under the control of the Gambling commission. The National Lottery was set up in 1994 while new modern sites and mobile apps allow you to gamble at your pleasure. In October 2004 the government introduced the Gambling Bill to tighten rules for betting online and lift restrictions on the number of casinos.

Casino Games

The games you’ll find at casinos are commonly known as casino games. Players gamble cash or casino chips on various possible random outcomes or combinations of outcomes.

  • Pachinko
  • Slot machine
  • Video poker
  • Video bingo

Non Casino Games

  • Card games: Poker, Blackjack and Baccarat
  • Coin-tossing: Head and Tail, Two-up
  • Dice-based: Backgammon and Liars Dice
  • Scratchcards whether purchased from your local store and hand scratched or online scratch cards players scratch away to unveil a potential prize based on matching symbols

Fixed Odds Betting

Frequently occurring at many types of sporting events, and political elections. In addition many bookmakers offer fixed odds on a number of non-sports related outcomes, for example the direction and extent of movement of various financial indices, the winner of television competitions and election results. Interactive prediction markets also offer trading on these outcomes, with “shares” of results trading on an open market.

Parimutuel betting

One of the most widespread forms betting, whether on horse or greyhound racing. Wagering may take place through parimutuel pools, or bookmakers may take bets personally. Parimutuel wagers pay off at prices determined by support in the wagering pools, while bookmakers pay off either at the odds offered at the time bet.

Sports betting

Betting on team sports has become extremely popular in many countries. Millions bet on various outcomes for football/soccer within the UK each week. In addition to organised betting, both legal and illegal, there are many side-betting games played by casual groups of spectators, such as Basketball Tournament Bracket Pools, Super Bowl Squares, Fantasy Sports Leagues.

Virtual sports

Based on Sports Betting, Virtual Sports are fantasy and never played sports events made by software that can be played every time without wondering about external things like weather conditions.