Whilst the Kray twins might not immediately conjure up thoughts of high-class casino gaming and the flashing lights associated with a big win on any casino Betfair online game, they were perhaps more influential on the casino scene than you may realise.
Finding a premises.
This dangerous duo had insatiable appetites for ambition, and did whatever they could to make it big, in their seemingly small worlds. Their interest in casino activity began not so favourably, as they dived into the world of off-track bookmakers and unlicensed casinos. Their reign of terror was short-lived as the introduction of new gambling laws came along in 1961, and with them, an opportunity to become legitimate.
Just a year prior, Ronnie and Reggie Kray had bought their very own bar, called Esmerelda’s Barn. And soon, they had transformed this forgotten tavern into Knightsbridge’s very first high-end casino. There was also some dispute about exactly how the twins came to own the deeds to this new night spot. Biographer John Pearson has written in great deal about how the possession of Esmerelda’s came from a rather nasty incident of extortion on a slum landlord Peter Rachman. However, the twins’ older brother Charlie Kray has insisted that he was a crucial part of making sure that this deal went through, suggesting that the process was above board. The truth is something we may never know.
Once the now-iconic Esmerelda’s Barn was in the safe but dangerous hands of the Krays, it quickly became the place to be in the West End. To name just a couple, Judy Garland and Johnnie Ray were frequent faces, and were also said to have grown quite close to the gruesome twosome. Despite their gang-related reputation, opening this casino allowed the Krays to brush shoulders with all kinds of high-class individuals. In fact, it became a regular occurrence for Ronnie Kray to be seen dining at the House of Lords with their newfound upper-class associates.
The Krays weren’t the only ones to get in on the casino action.
Following the aforementioned legalisation, almost 1,000 casino establishments were opened, trying to get a piece of the action. What’s more, pubs and bars around the city also began installing fruit machines to offer up added entertainment to their punters, after seeing the great success of casinos.
But anyway, let’s get back to Esmerelda’s!
As more and more casino bars began opening, the Kray twins faced a fall from grace. Esmerelda’s Barn may have remained as the epicentre of all London nightlife across three glorious years, but the popularity was certainly diminishing in the wake of other West End venues getting in on the act, such as Peter Cook’s The Establishment. The duo knew when they had been beaten and went on to sell their hotspot in 1963 – moving on to bigger fish to fry.
To this day, the building itself still stands. But instead of a high-class casino bar, you’ll find the five-star Berkeley Hotel. So, above all else, the glamour of the location has remained!