London's oldest casino, Crockfords, closes after 195 years in business

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: October 25, 2023 16:53 PDT

Crockfords, the oldest casino in London, England, has closed its doors for the final time. The elegant casino served an elite clientele after first opening its doors in 1827, and it was located in London's posh Mayfair district for most of the past two centuries.

The casino, famed for its classic Victorian designs and exclusive gambling salons, closed after its corporate owner, Genting UK PLC, announced in September an internal "consultation" about the casino's future amid failing financial fortunes. Despite its global fame in the gambling world as an upper-crust destination, Crockfords encountered multiple challenges that ultimately doomed its ability to remain profitable.

The first challenge Crockfords faced in recent years was the COVID-19 pandemic, which presented travel hardships for a significant portion of the casino's ultra-exclusive customer base. Crockfords was also adversely impacted by the United Kingdom's new "tourist tax," referring to the UK's elimination of VAT-free (Value Added Tax) shopping and purchasing of services by visitors from other countries.

The 2021 changes to the VAT tax, which is a consumption tax targeting end consumers, was especially noticed by high-end gamblers who soon discovered that they could get a better gambling deal from other destinations around the globe. Crockfords is not the first UK casino closing recently that has laid some of the blame on the tourist-tax issue. Roughly 100 of the small casino's workers and executives are losing their jobs, though many may land in positions elsewhere within Genting Group's global operations.

Phil Ivey lost 'edge sorting' case to Crockfords

Though Crockfords did not spread poker, the casino nonetheless became famous within the poker world after it was sued by famed pro player Phil Ivey for not paying off a £7.7 million (US $10.2 million) win at the casino's mini-baccarat (Punto Banco) tables. Ivey and his sharp-eyed companion, "Kelly" Cheung Yin Sung, successfully manipulated the game's odds in their favor by having the game's dealers rotate cards during play in a manner that made them more identifiable in later-dealt shoes. The pair's use of " edge sorting," or identifying of minute print variations, allowed them to profitably visit several casinos around the globe.

One of those other casinos where Ivey and Sun booked a huge win was New Jersey's Borgata casino, which the pair visited four separate times for one or more days in 2011 and 2012. The Borgata later sued Ivey and Sun after determining that edge sorting was likely involved, even though its legality was undetermined and Ivey later professed in court that he believed the practice was fully legal.

However, news of the Borgata's lawsuit went public exactly when Ivey and Sun were undertaking the same scheme at Crockfords. Ivey attempted to cash out all his winnings and departed the casino, but Crockfords instead only returned, via wire transfer, Ivey's initial £1 million deposit. That led to Ivey suing Crockfords, even as in the US Borgata was suing Ivey, and in the end Ivey lost on both sides of the Atlantic. In England in 2016, Crockfords prevailed in an initial court ruling, and Ivey lost an appeal to the UK Supreme Court the following year, leaving him with only that initially returned stake for his effort.

The US-based Borgata case took longer to resolve, but the Borg finally prevailed and won a judgment worth more than $10 million before undertaking an extensive legal effort to identify and seize Ivey's assets in Nevada. The Borgata did successfully garnish a $124,000 cash Ivey logged in a high-roller WSOP H.O.R.S.E. event in 2019. A year later, Ivey and the Borgata agreed to settlement terms that have never been publicly disclosed.