The Patron Queen Of Casino Games

A chess piece in a chess tournamentSource: Pixabay

While the origins of gambling are lost in the mists of antiquity, more recently the pastime has become much more accessible. Players today can enjoy online slots, card games and table games online – and they owe this convenience to enthusiasts like Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Not to be confused with Queen Elizabeth II, who also happens to enjoy gambling in the form of horse racing, Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533 – 1603) was a gaming fan, so much so that she was directly involved in creating the first official lottery in England in 1567. That’s a long way from the world of online slots we live in today, but the fascination with gambling is the same.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed two-and-a-half years after Elizabeth's birth. Her father was known for his gambling interests, although he wasn't very successful at it, losing vast sums over short periods of time.

She was known as a patron of theatre, and, although recorded history is scant, may have met Shakespeare when he was a young boy. Shakespeare went on to mention gambling 13 times in seven plays, and the bard is most certainly considered as an authentic source of cultural reference for those times.

The Raffle Behind Casino Slots

Her own reputation when it came to gambling wasn’t perfect: she was rumoured to have been a merciless cheat at cards and other forms of gambling. However, the queen did look to gaming as having great potential beyond entertainment. In those days, rulers had to find creative ways to raise funds without taxing the population to death, and Elizabeth I was nothing if not creative.

Facing pressure from the investments required for public projects, Queen Elizabeth I wasn’t able to resort to internet slots to meet the demand – they hadn’t been invented yet. Instead, massively expensive projects such as the rebuilding of ports and ship construction for the Royal Fleet prompted her to opt for a lottery system rather than instituting a new tax on people. The lottery carried a ticket price of 10 shillings (£260 or $337 today), targeting the richer upper classes of society.

With 400,000 tickets in circulation, the winner received £5,000 in cash, the equivalent of a £2.6 million jackpot nowadays ($3.37 million), and all participants were granted immunity from arrest (excluding murder, treason, piracy, or felonies), an unusual reward indeed.

A royal crown with jewelsSource: Pixabay

This application of a raffle system provided funds for much-needed infrastructure that contributed to ongoing British rule, and also created an environment for lotteries to play a part in global government policy making (as well as entertainment). Basically, Queen Elizabeth I took betting games mainstream. Since then, the proceeds from lotteries have been an important source of funding for governments all over the world.

Funding an Empire

Gambling before, during and after Queen Elizabeth I’s reign was at a turning point. In order to ensure that society could continue to flourish, regulations were created and constantly updated during these years. Bearing in mind that society was conservative and cautious, it took considerable efforts from many influential people to make gambling an acceptable pastime.

It’s entirely plausible to consider that without King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I (and other subsequent monarchs), there would be no such thing as slot machine games in modern times.

Gaming was another name for gambling during the Elizabethan era, and it’s a curious thought to consider how this form of entertainment has evolved. In the days of Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, gaming took place in almost any venue, from established gambling dens and gambling houses to inns and theatres, while the upper classes often held private games in the comfort of their homes.  Thanks to the Internet, this level of comfort is now available to anyone, as players familiar with the world of online casino slots  and table games will know. 

An important thing to bear in mind is that around the globe today, lotteries and gambling are used in many contexts to aid in community development, an offshoot of this development in history that would not have happened without the visionary policies of Queen Elizabeth I.

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