London’s casinos are benefitting from the capital’s current role as the playground of the rich and the VIPs being attracted to city are changing the nature of the games on offer. London is home to just 18% of the UK’s 147 casinos but contributes 70% of the UK’s total drop and 63% of its overall gross win.

Between 2008/09 and 2014/15 the overall gross win for gaming tables has risen from GB£ 692 million to GB£ 992 million, an increase of 43%.

Much of that growth has been driven by the rise of Punto Banco (and its Baccarat variants), which itself provides a clue as to the changing customer base. Punto Banco gross win has risen from GB£ 67 million (2008/09) to GB£ 194 million (2014/15), a rise of 189%.

Baccarat is the favoured game of Chinese gamblers and some of the high-end London casinos have actively sought to attract Chinese VIPs, even at the expense of losing other portions of their client base. An article in the Financial Times from May 2014 reported that Les Ambassadeurs casino had increased its annual membership fee from GB£ 500 to GB£ 25,000 in one go. As expected, membership dropped from 350 to 100 but “stepping into the market was a much better quality customer – the wealthy Chinese player”. Chinese gamblers now apparently constitute half of the casino’s customers.

As a result of the changing customer base, Les Ambassadeurs increased the maximum single stake from GB£ 25,000 to GB£ 300,000. The experience of this one casino is reflected in the Gambling Commission’s data.

Between 2008 and 2015:
• The number of Punto Banco tables installed in UK casinos has risen from 98 to 158
• Punto Banco’s share of casino drop has increased from 9% to 31%
• American Roulette’s share of drop has fallen from 51% to 38%
• Punto Banco’s average drop per table has risen from GB£ 4.1 million to GB£ 14.2 million

But the start of 2016 has seen falls in Asian stockmarkets and a languishing oil price. If these events precipitate a wider economic crisis in the medium term, VIP customers from Asia and the oil-producing nations might curtail their visits to London’s gaming tables.