Ah, gambling. Gambling was an aspect of Regency life that was accepted as normal, even required. It was, however, technically illegal.
Gambling was made illegal in the early-1700s when it was decided that such an addictive pastime, where whole fortunes were won and lost, needed to be curtailed. This merely forced the activity to go behind closed doors. By the time the Regency rolled around, gambling was more than just a pleasurable pursuit. It was nearly a requirement in High Society.
The things one could gamble on were many and varied. Ladies and gentlemen could gamble at nearly every Society function, as most of these had card rooms for those who didn't care to dance. For gentlemen, they could also gamble at horse races, pugilistic events (boxing), cock fights, dog fights, and many other sports that ran along the same lines.
Gambling at private parties such as balls usually had limits. Even card parties tended towards smaller stakes, although fortunes could still be won or lost on the turn of a card. If a gentleman wanted to take real chances with his money or property, he had to go to a gaming house or gambling hell.
Curiously, in researching for this post, I have stumbled across a name that I have never heard before. William Crockford was possibly the richest self-made man of the time. His gambling house was said to rival the Palace of Versailles for opulence. He built his gambling house in 1827 in St James's Street, calling it Crockford's Club.
Perhaps the reason this man and his club goes unmentioned is the time he was known. Few Regencies venture into the time after the coronation of the George IV even though this time was still considered the "Regency" by most.
Speaking of George IV, he was quite the gambler himself. However, I think maybe he deserves his own post, don't you?
*Further reading: The Regency Underworld by Donald A Low and the Wikipedia article titled William Crockford.
**As always, I welcome comments or questions. Feel free to correct or question everything. :o)