The Hippodrome Casino, London

Last updated: 19 November 2014
The beast at the east of Leicester Square

Before you go:

Reg/Walk In: Walk in
Cashout at Machines: Coupon
Dress Code: No set dress code
Rewards Programme: Yes
Parking: Parking available from £11.00 + congestion zone
Restaurants: Yes
Bars: Yes

Address: Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, WC2H 7JH
Telephone: 44 2077698888

The Hippodrome is an iconic building just off Leicester Square, which has been operating in various guises for decades, including a kind of circus and latterly a nightclub. The name evidently comes from a Greek derivation, meaning, broadly, horse course (as in racetrack). That’s not to say there haven’t been all sorts of creatures, including (possibly) Hippopotami, involved in the history of the site – in the past there have been all sorts of shows here, including a huge water tank in which Sea Lions and Polar Bears could be seen. Not too many of those around right now, mind, it’d be bad for business if they ate the staff. In any case, this is one of the best run casinos in the UK, and if you are any kind of gaming person, you simply have to visit and take a look around.

It’s only been open since mid 2012, and is still getting into its stride, although these days it is steamingly busy. The slots are state of the art, but you may have to wait for one to come available as they get pretty packed, with 14 near the main entrance and another 6 further back. The design is a little odd inside, given the vast number of people visiting you’d think they would get as many playing positions of all kinds in front of the door as possible, but there have been a few layout changes already and apparently more to come. Everything is done with a touch of quality, however, and you can spend a happy half day just walking around and looking at the amazing detail of the decor and surroundings.

There are all kinds of facilities, with a showbar at the back and some reasonably high profile acts from time to time. They also have a very large and accessible smoking terrace, I guess the advantage of designing the place after the ban came in. It can be a little difficult to navigate your way around the place, as the scale is such that they have five bars, a poker deck right at the top and the excellent Heliot steakhouse restaurant, as well an entire gaming floor in the basement. This basement option has gone through a couple of versions – originally it was aimed at the Chinese market, then it became a low stakes area, now it’s “Lola’s”, named after some showgirl, and features burlesque dancers gyrating away, some of whom look well into it, some of whom look like they’re mentally organising their weekly shopping. There is a dice table down there, mind, at a reasonable £3 minimum, and when that’s rocking the place has no shortage of atmosphere. It’s all exceptionally well done, as you would expect for a price tag rumoured to be in excess of £50 Million – the downside of having to convert a listed building on about 7 levels.

Even the little touches are excellent, my favourite being the multimedia screens showing all kinds of images dotted around the site. When I visited they were training gaming staff on some of the tables during the day, no doubt it’s a bit of a machine when it comes to staffing levels, they certainly appear to spare no expense with people available to help you all over the place. The only non-happy staff member I saw had a good excuse – he was dealing “Casino War”, the most basic (and therefore tedious) casino game imaginable, where essentially you get a card, the dealer gets a card, whoever has the highest card wins. He looked, understandably, like he’d rather eat his own eyeballs than deal one more hand, hopefully they only leave the guys on there for a short time before putting them on a more interesting game. Perhaps he’d been naughty.

You certainly have to experience the Hippodrome if you have any wish to see how well done UK casinos can be, it has something for everyone, and looks to be a roaring success.