‘The Steeple Times’ takes a look at the stories of five of the most fascinating British gamblers – one’s activities even originated the word ‘sandwich’
If asked about British gambling – whether it be horse racing, poker, the roulette wheel or the best online casino bonuses – most would name the fictional spy James Bond as the ultimate famous face, but in doing so they miss a trick.
Here, The Steeple Times selects five fascinating British gamblers and takes a spin on their respective riveting stories:
Sir James Goldsmith (1933 – 1997)
Best known for brilliantly barracking the tawdry Tory David Mellor during the 1997 general election, billionaire businessman Sir ‘Jimmy’ Goldsmith had eight children, three wives and many mistresses.
Aged 16, in 1949, the controversial Millfield and Eton College educated buccaneer won £8,000 (equivalent to £300,800 in 2021) on a horse racing bet of £10 (equivalent to £376 in 2021) for a three-horse accumulator at Lewes in East Sussex. With his spoils the subsequent Referendum Party founder, he decided that he should leave Eton immediately; in a speech at his boarding house, he reportedly declared: “A man of my means should not remain a schoolboy!”
John Bingham, The Right Honourable The 7th Earl of Lucan (1934 – declared dead in 1999 with official death certificate issued in 2016)
Considered to play James Bond and into power boats and Aston Martins, this professional gambler was an early member of the Clermont Club in Berkeley Square, Mayfair. Amongst his gaming companions were Sir James Goldsmith and the society writer Taki Theodoracopulos.
Lord Lucan vanished on 7th November 1974 after the murder of his children’s nanny at his estranged wife’s Belgravia home. He has never been seen again and remains undoubtedly one of the most famous missing people in history.
John Montagu, The Right Honourable The 4th Earl of Sandwich PC FRS (1718 – 1792)
Appointed the British first lord of the Admiralty during the American Revolution, the 4th Earl of Sandwich is the man for whom the sandwich was named.
A “profligate gambler and rake,” the aristocrat spent 24 hours at a gaming table in 1762 and because he didn’t want to be disturbed with the inconvenience of a meal, asked for some roast beef between two slices of bread. Others present then summoned “the same as Sandwich” and the rest is history.
Stuart Wheeler (1935 – 2020)
Eton and Oxford educated Stuart Wheeler was once “told to stop playing blackjack for being too successful at Caesar’s Palace Casino in Las Vegas.” He played cards with Lord Lucan two nights before his disappearance, invented spread-betting on shares and gave William Hague’s Conservative Party the biggest donation in British history – a sum of £5 million.
A regular competitor in the World Series of Poker championships and known for playing bridge with Omar Sharif also, Wheeler lived in the £15 million Chilham Castle in Kent and counted ‘Model of the Millennium’ Jacquetta Wheeler amongst his trio of daughters.
On 26th September 1996, Lancashire lad Darren Yates achieved what was termed ‘The Magnificent Seven’ when he turned £67.58 into £550,823.54 when he bet on Frankie Dettori to win seven out of seven races at Ascot. A spokesman for William Hill, the bookies he well and truly bashed, remarked: “It’s a remarkable rags to riches story.”
Yates subsequently used his life-changing wager to build a property empire – which he sold for £20 million – and has continued by buying horses including Ashtown Lad, Blaklion and Don Poli.