The United Kingdom’s relationship with the corner betting shop has been called a love affair but it was a romance the government always wanted to be conducted on the down low. When the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act was approved by British Parliament the House of Commons insisted that the new gambling dens be as dreary as possible with “dead windows” that would either be blacked out or shuttered. Nothing of the nefarious goings-on was to be visible from the street to entice impressionable young Brits into the premises.
Nonetheless, within six months of the new legislation there were more than 10,000 betting shops operating in Britain. One who jumped into the fray was 33-year old Cyril Stein who had purchased the venerable gaming company Ladbrokes fives years earlier. Founded in 1886 as commission agents for Britain’s horse racing aristocracy Ladbrokes had been in accelerating decline for decades before Stein and an uncle acquired the business for just £100,000. Stein plowed whatever profits he gleaned from the haughty racecourses into the lowly betting shops until his chain numbered more than 2,000 locations.
Others were less anxious to join the ranks of legitimate turf accountants. William Hill first started taking bets as a teenager in World War I, ferrying betting slips from a local Birmingham factory to area bookmakers on a small motor bike. When he took a turn at booking his own bets in the 1920s he lost all his money. Lessons learned, he began operations anew at greyhound stadiums and in 1934 he opened an illegal betting parlor in London, dealing in postal orders and credit rather than cash to sidestep the authorities. By the 1960s Hill, known for taking enormous wagers, was the dean of British bookmakers and he loathed the idea of legalized betting. But so many of his rivals were jumping into the retail market that he finally followed in 1966. The 63-year old Hill did not grouse about the “cancer on society” for long, however, as he retired in 1970 and died the following year. His successors carried his name and reputation to more than 2,000 betting shops as well.
The giants of United Kingdom sports betting and gaming did not drop the ball with the advent of online gaming and have extended their brands across the world. The blackjack tables at Ladbrokes Live Casino support 16 languages and play is conducted at the William Hill Live Casino in nine different tongues. But leading the charge of British bookmakers into the digital age was Victor Chandler who was only ten years old when the first legal betting shops were opening across Great Britain.
Chandler began his working life in the hotel business but when his father died unexpectedly in 1974 he returned to the family betting business founded by his grandfather in 1946. Chandler’s book of business had long been dominated by foreign-based high rollers and in 1998 he took the unprecedented step of moving his entire operation off-shore to Gibraltar and out of the range of the onerous 9% United Kingdom betting tax. His BetVictor online casino proved such a successful model for operators that the British government was forced to scrap the betting tax entirely in 2001.
Ladbrokes’s, William Hill, and BetVictor are among the best live dealer casinos on the Internet, a club that includes more than a dozen experienced and trusted British operators. BetVictor alone operates five separate live casinos, powered by four different platforms and its own live streaming operation from state-of-the-art casino studios in Gibraltar. All BetVictor blackjack tables can be accessed by its customers in 160 countries from a single account.
So what can a punter expect from live blackjack from United Kingdom online casinos?
Tables are always open, all the time. The widest variety of table limits found anywhere in the world can satisfy any bankroll. Online chat with live dealers and other players is always available. And the games are dealt at houses with the most respected reputations in the industry.
The varieties of live blackjack available for players is limited by the technology but there are some deviations from the classic game of twenty-one to try. Live blackjack in British online casinos is dealt as either a Public Game or a Personal Game. By far the most popular form is the Personal Game that is the familiar method of dealing individual hands to the players, each punter responsible for managing his or her own cards.
In the public game hands are shared. Three hands are dealt against the dealer and the players at a Public table can elect to bet on any or all of the hands. The dealer then plays each hand according to the dictates of best blackjack strategy. Players new to live dealer blackjack may find the Public game preferable as a way to observe how different blackjack hands should be optimally played without the pressure of making the quick decisions required in the Personal Game. Public games are also ideal for those players seeking quick online action without committing to a full session of play.
For seasoned blackjack gamblers looking for more action than the Personal Game some British online casinos offer side bets. Look for tables with a Side Bet button that can be activated for additional wagers before a hand is dealt. Two of the most common are Perfect Pairs and the 21+3 side bet. With Perfect Pairs the bet is on the player’s two cards. The wager pays off when the two cards are of identical value – if the pair is unsuited with different colors it pays 5 to 1; if the pair is unsuited of the same color the return is 10-1; and if the two cards are identical, a “perfect pair,” the side bet cashes in at 30-1.
To determine a winner in the 21+3 side bet the player’s two dealt cards and the dealer’s up card are used. If the trio form a straight, a flush, a straight flush or three of a kind the bet cashes. All winning 21+3 side bets pay at 9 to 1 as the rank of the hands does not matter. Players can also find early payout blackjack at several United Kingdom live casinos. With this option a payout can be taken after the deal based on the predicted outcome of commonly accepted strategy odds.
United Kingdom online live casinos have much in common with their betting shop ancestors. In the the early days of the betting shops only big operators could afford the capital to set up a retail shop, a fact of life that kept dubious operators out of the game. Similarly, only the established houses with a proven track record can swing the setting up of a live dealer, helping the format gain quick legitimacy among players. And without a doubt British online live dealers deliver the best blackjack experience, melding history, game selection and trustworthiness.