Gaming hells make frequent appearances in historical romances. In case our readers were wondering how these might compare to our modern-day casinos, here’s Charles Molloy Westmacott’s* (aka Bernard Blackmantle) 1825 verbal sketch. The illustration is by Robert Cruikshank.
~~~The principal game played here is French Hazard, the director and friends supplying the bank, the premium for which, with what the box-money produces, forms no inconsiderable source of profit. It is ridiculous to suppose any unfair practices are ever resorted to in the general game; in a mixed company they would be easily detected, and must end in the ruin of the house: but the chances of the game, calculation, and superior play, give proficients every advantage, and should teach the inexperienced caution. "It is heart-rending," said Crony, whom I had smuggled into one corner of the room, for the purpose of enjoying his remarks free from observation, "to observe the progress of the unfortunate votaries to this destructive vice, as they gradually proceed through the various stages of its seductive influence. The young and thoughtless are delighted with the fascination of the scene: to the more profligate sensualist it affords an opportunity of enjoying the choicest liqueurs, coffee, and wines, free of expense; and, although he may have no money to lose himself, he can do the house a good turn, by introducing some pigeon who has just come out; and he is therefore always a welcome visitor. At Crockford's, all games where the aid of mechanism would be necessary are cautiously avoided, not from any moral dislike to Rouge et Noir or Roulette, but from the apprehension of an occasional visit from the police, and the danger attending the discovery of such apparatus, which, from its bulk, cannot easily be concealed. In the space of an hour Echo had lost all the money he possessed, and had given his I O U for a very considerable sum; although frequently urged to desist by Transit, who, with all his love of life and frolic, is yet a decided enemy to gaming.
—The English Spy
*Another view of him here.