Gamechangers – A brief history of women in Casino

We live in a world that tells us that gaming and specifically, gambling is a man’s area of expertise. We’re all familiar with the classic movie casino scene – the table is attended by wealthy men, adorned in expensive tuxedos. They are joined by glamourous bombshells, whose only role is to remain on their arm, like an accessory. This image has become ingrained in our culture, so much so that it’s easy to forget that women have just as much right to gamble as men do!

Today, women are gaining a greater presence in the world of gaming. They’re starting to take a commanding role on the scene – becoming pro-gamblers, casino operational managers and business executives, to name a few.

But first, take a quick ride in a time machine back to the 18th Century and you’ll find the women who began to change the game, making it possible for females to break onto the casino scene and take a leading role.

The 18th Century – Faro Ladies

In the 18th Century, gambling was associated with criminal activity and was considered as a disruption to society. Because of this, many games were outlawed and though many wealthy men continued to play in gentlemen’s clubs, it was completely off the cards for aristocratic women.

In rebellion, five women came together to gamble, not only with cards, but with the law. Lady Elizabeth Luttrell, Lady Buckinghamshire, Lady Sarah Archer, Mrs. Concannon and Mrs. Sturt would meet late at night and host Faro tables. The women created their own exclusive underground club, where they would meet to discuss politics and socialise.

The women were unfortunately targeted by men, who believed that their activity was disgraceful and that they were threatening the status quo of society. The group were eventually caught in the act, were fined £50 each, and found guilty of playing Faro.

They may have been caught red handed, but these women proved their worth, paving the way for the progression of women in society and in the gaming world.

The 19th Century – The Wild West Saloons

In the Wild West saloons, a casino culture was beginning to emerge. People were starting to congregate in specific houses to play games and gamble. It was in America in these saloons, that one of the most famous female poker players of the Old West began her career.

Alice Ivers Tubbs, born in Devonshire, moved to the United states as a child. She married a mining engineer and, since gambling was a common past-time in the mining camps, Alice watched her husband and his friends take part in various games. As a by-stander she began to pick up the rules of the games and soon was trying her hand at the likes of Poker and Faro.

After her husband’s death, she demonstrated her skill for the game and soon became known as ‘Poker Alice’. Women were allowed to gamble at this time, although they very rarely participated, meaning that Alice’s presence at the table and her talent was all the more impressive. Some nights, Alice could make up to $6,000 gambling and eventually earned enough money, and an impressive reputation, that she could afford to open her own gambling house in 1910, which she named ‘Poker’s Palace’.

Women in Gambling Today

The rise of online casino gaming and mobile gambling has seen a significant shift in gambling demographics. Since this made the casino experience more accessible, many women began to try their hand on an array of sites, which made it possible to play online casino games in UK.

Today, women are prevalent as forces in the casino world, both on the table and in business. Denise Coats is the CEO of one of the biggest online betting agencies. She can also be hailed as one of the most successful bosses in the UK, earning herself an impressive £199 million pay cheque. Vanessa Selbst, on the other hand is a professional poker player from the USA and is considered as the most successful female player in history. She is the only female to have reached the number one ranking on the Global Poker Index.

It’s fair to say that women have come a pretty long way from their humble beginnings playing in underground social clubs!