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It’s fair to say that the capital has an eclectic choice when it comes to nights out, at least when we are living under normal circumstances. But there is something extra special about a night in a top casino. It’s an opportunity to unleash your inner James Bond, or Jane Bond as the case may be, get yourself dressed up and enjoy some sophisticated games for grown ups, along with a glass or two of your favourite tipple.

Of course, right now, the games have to take place in cyberspace. While we have been living under these strange conditions, there has been a massive increase in people visiting virtual casinos, not just in the UK but all over the world. Search interest in online gambling has increased by 15 percent in the UK compared to last year. In the US, that figure is 16 percent and in Canada, the increase is 20 percent, with more people than ever before choosing to play online. You might think that is bad news for the physical casinos, but the actual effect is that when people discover casino games online and hone their skills, they are more likely to want to try it out in the real world.

London is certainly one of the best places to do so. If you are thinking of joining them, let’s take a look at some very different options that will be available to you when the city’s nightspots reopen their doors in December.

Maxims Club Casino

Many of London’s more serious gamblers had their world rocked in June with the news that The Ritz Club would remain permanently closed after lockdown. Fortunately, though, if it is old-world exclusivity you are looking for, there are other choices available.

Maxims Club Casino is tucked away among all the embassies close to Kensington Palace. Having opened in the 1860s, it is steeped in history. You will find all the classic games here, and the high rollers love the Punto Banco tables, where table limits go up to £25,000. There are also two luxurious bars, along with a fine dining restaurant.

Despite the exclusivity, Maxims is open to all, and smart casual attire is acceptable throughout. Having said that, an evening at Maxims is the perfect opportunity for gentlemen to put on that dinner jacket and perfect the Bond look, or for ladies to give the little black dress an airing.

The Hippodrome

If fine dining, leather upholstery and five figure wagers do not float your boat, the Hippodrome in Leicester Square offers something quite different. This is a casino for the new millennium, with three floors of gaming, numerous bars and eateries, a cinema and regular live entertainment.

It is also a magnet for sports fans, who assemble around the big screens to see coverage of all the major events. If you enjoy the NFL, head over on a Sunday evening – you’re sure to find plenty of like-minded souls.

The casino itself offers well over 100 slots, plus 25 poker tables and all the other favourites like roulette, blackjack, baccarat, sic bo and more.

The Grosvenor

Often still referred to by its original name of the Golden Horseshoe, this famous casino in Bayswater presents less of a rarefied atmosphere than Maxims. On the other hand, it will not be full of screaming sports fans in shorts and football shirts like the Hippodrome. As such, it is one of London’s favourite destinations for those who want a special night at a traditional casino but are not necessarily big-time gamblers.

The casino is larger than it looks from the outside, and there is a truly impressive choice of table games, electronic games, slots and special poker events. The dress code is smart casual, but like most Grosvenor casinos, you will be welcomed as long as you avoid things like football shirts, flip flops or baseball caps.

As well as the games, there’s a bar serving all the usual beverages plus good quality, no-nonsense bar meals. Promotions like two-for-one offers are commonplace, and there will almost certainly be some festive specials available in the run up to Christmas.

The Playboy Club

Few brands are as iconic as Playboy, and Hugh Heffner’s clubs around the world have become synonymous with celebrity excess. London’s original Playboy Club in Park Lane opened in the swinging sixties but closed down in 1981. 30 years later it returned, just down the street on the site of the old Rendezvous casino.

Today, there are 22 gaming tables, all served by Playboy Bunnies who, to quote the club website, are chosen for their “charm, wit and general appeal.” The restaurant is managed by famous chef Judy Joo, and Salvatore’s Bar was voted the best in London by Exclusive Lifestyle magazine in 2012.

Of course, if you want a slice of the Playboy lifestyle, you can’t just stroll in the door. Membership will cost you £1,200 per year, and there’s an initial joining fee of £1,000 for new members.

Coming soon…. The Clermont Club

You might think from the above that the Playboy Club was the place to be back in the 60s if you were a mover and shaker among London’s elite and wanted an evening of casino gaming. That’s not entirely true, however. The Clermont Club on Berkeley Square was arguably the most exclusive celebrity hangout in the city, and it is another name that is set to return with a bang.

The club was opened by John Aspinall, the famous zoo owner who was the first man in his business to put animal welfare ahead of visitor entertainment and profits. Aspinall had something of a murky reputation in those days, and the club was a popular gambling den before gambling was even legal. Indeed, legalisation followed on the back of Aspinall successfully challenging charges that he was running an illegal gambling house in the late 1950s. When you consider that his guests included the likes of Princess Margaret, Ian Fleming and Peter Sellers, it all starts to make sense.

Changing times meant the Clermont started haemorrhaging money, and it finally closed in 2018. However, Mayfair Casinos bought the club last year and have spent months lovingly restoring its interior. It is scheduled to reopen in 2021, and we can hardly wait to give it a try. 

A tour of London’s unique casino scene
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