John Aspinall (zoo Owner) - Biography - Career

Career

Aspinall became a bookmaker; at that time the only legal gambling in the UK was on horse racing courses. Between races, he returned to London, and took part in illegal private gambling parties. Aspinall discovered that games of Chemin de Fer, known as Chemie (Chemmy), were legal, and the house owner made a 5% fee for hosting the event.

Aspinall targeted his events at the rich, sending out embossed invitations. Illegal gambling houses were defined then in British law as places where gambling had taken place more than three times. With his Irish-born accountant John Burke, Aspinall rented quality flats and houses, never used them more than three times, and had his mother pay off local Metropolitan Police officers.

Among the gamblers were the Queen's racehorse trainer Bernard van Cutsem, who brought with him friends including the Earl of Derby and the Duke of Devonshire. The standard bet was £1,000, which would be £25,000 accounting for inflation in 2007 figures. Chemie games were quick and played every 30 seconds, with £50,000 changing hands per game. Aspinall made £10,000, a sum equivalent to £250,000 in 2007, on his first event.

In 1956 he married Jane Gordon Hastings, and had one son, Damian Aspinall.

In 1958, he lived at Howletts Zoo, Kent; at this point his mother had forgotten to pay off corrupt police officers, so they raided his game that night. He won the subsequent court case, the outcome of which is known as Aspinall's Law. The win created a vast increase in Chemie games, during which:

  • The landowner the Earl of Derby lost over £20,000; and then returned on another night and lost £300,000, the equivalent of nearly £7 million in 2007.
  • The founder of the Special Air Service Colonel Sir David Stirling lost £173,000 on Aspinall's tables, writing out an IOU at the end of the night

In response to Aspinall's legal win, the UK Government passed the Betting and Gaming Act 1960, which allowed commercial bingo halls to be set up, provided they were established as members-only clubs and had to get their take from membership fees and charges rather than as a percentage of the gaming fees. Casinos were required to operate under the same rules, with a licence from the Gaming Board of Great Britain, and to be members-only. The passing of these laws brought Aspinall's Chemie-based 5% business model to a close, and he had to find a new business.

Read more about this topic:  John Aspinall (zoo Owner), Biography

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