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How the Hippodrome Became London’s Prime Gaming Destination

November 3, 2021

The history of land-based casinos goes as far back as the 17th century, with the first of its kind being built on the waterways of Venice’s Grand Canal in 1638. Since then, countless other gaming establishments have opened their doors to patrons around the world.

In the same way that the Casino di Venezia started out as a theatre rather than an official casino locale, another famous European venue, namely the London Hippodrome, wasn’t always the thrilling casino destination it is today.

Easily recognizable due to its size and visual aesthetic. the Hippodrome is a striking building that looms over Leicester Square train station and the nightclubs around the iconic square. Let’s take a look at how the capital’s biggest and busiest gaming venue came to be.

Historical Roots and Circus Origins

The London Hippodrome first opened in January 1900 as a venue for major circus performances. Theatre impresario and chairman of Moss Empires, Sir Edward Moss, as well as English designer and architect Francis Matcham, were the primary drivers of the monumental project.

When it opened, the venue featured a variety of fantastical elements, from its 100,000 gallon pool to its herd of elephants, polar bears, and horse-drawn carriages — not to mention a retractable glass roof that provided guests with ventilation and added light. As expected, the new venue received rave reviews from patrons.

Reconstruction: Songs and Stage

Following several years of great success, Hippodrome management decided to enlist the talents of Matcham again in 1909, this time for a reconstruction project that saw the venue being expanded into a music hall and variety theatre with more capacity. It was during this time that the Hippodrome staged the first ever English premier of Swan Lake as well as stunt shows by Harry Houdini, each of which transformed the venue into a world-class entertainment destination.

In the years that followed, the Hippodrome’s reputation continued to evolve, defined by musical comedy performances like major West End productions Hit the Deck (1928) and The Five O’Clock Girl (1929).

‘The Talk of the Town’

A new decade brought new changes to the Hippodrome when in 1950 the venue was transformed into the iconic London nightclub, The Talk of the Town. A complete overhaul to the original interior gave the venue a new lease of life. As its name suggested, the Talk of the Town had the approval and praise of all who visited, hosting unforgettable performances by major musical stars of the time like Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Diana Ross, The Temptations, and many more.

the London Hippodrome offers three floors of casino gaming

The London Hippodrome offers three floors of casino gaming with a variety of classic table games like Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat, and more

Today: Casino and Entertainment Venue

The 21st century saw the Hippodrome evolve yet again into a restaurant and nightclub under its original name. In 2008, it returned to its circus roots with a theatre license that ran for one year before 2009 marked a major turning point for the Hippodrome.

English entrepreneurs Jimmy and Simon Thomas took responsibility for the venue, undertaking what would be one final, thorough restoration. The brothers invested years in the site’s transformation, reimagining Matcham’s original designs in order to open as the Hippodrome Casino in 2012.