Winston Churchill and His Addiction to Gambling

Clement Churchill, the wife of a prominent politician, British Prime Minister, and writer Winston Churchill, was deeply concerned with her husband’s behaviour. There were times when Churchill went on a drinking spree but Clement was more worried about the aspects of his gambling story. Churchill’s addiction to alcohol has been well documented by investigative journalists, academics and historians. It is not until recently that that demographic has unearthed the darker side of, arguably, Britain’s most-loved Prime Minister.

Winston Churchill and His Addiction to Gambling

We sifted through information from these widely-researched and authoritative texts to come up with the gambling history of Churchill. They include David Lough’s No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, Peter Clark’s Mr Churchill’s Profession: Statesman, Orator, Writer (2012) and David Reynolds’ In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing and Second World War (2004). 

Churchill’s Early Life

The formative years of any child have a great impact on moulding their future. Churchill’s gambling story is a subset of his upbringing. Born in 1874, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill hailed from Oxfordshire’s Blenheim Estate. He was brought up in a hugely aristocratic environment influenced by his grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill who was in the bloodline of a higher caste system. That Spencer was the 7th Duke of Marlborough is a testament to that.

Churchill, even in his youth, was more profligate than was expected of him. And that’s where his gambling story begins. His mother recounted how, at 13, he had a penchant of spending more money than an average family of six had to live on. His thrifty tendencies hugely contributed to his gambling story. However, hereditary reasons prevented him from extending the profligacy and spending habits of a duke: he simply couldn’t afford to be more wasteful.

Churchill’s financial situation took a nosedive soon after the death of his father – Lord Randolph Churchill in 1895. A few years later, through a letter, he explicitly told his brother -Jack Churchill- that his spending habits worried him. Considering he was a decorated cavalry officer who served in Cuba, Sudan, and India, which, in addition to his commentary on the war, earned him an equivalent of £100,000. A decent amount which was more than he needed but could only be wasted: his gambling story being his bane.

With a political career that spanned four decades, Winston Churchill incessantly had debts and was almost always involved in high-risk activities: horse betting, casino gambling, and the stock exchange. While these also helped him wade Britain through the murkiest moments that was the Blitz, he was also battling bankruptcy.

Winston Churchill at the Hotel de Paris Casino gambling story

Churchill had way too many gambling-related occurrences than the word count for this article permits. Focussing on his love for Monaco, located in the South of France, will shed more light on his general gambling story. When he was not working hard at executing his ministerial responsibilities, he frequented the Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo.

At that infamous casino, Churchill accrued the highest debts he had ever racked up in his addiction. One night in 1939 while on vacation, he went on an unending losing streak that stretched well into the early morning hours. This prompted the casino’s director to ask Churchill to stop, which landed on deaf ears but promised to pay up at the break of dawn. He hurriedly went back to Britain because of the possibility of an outbreak of war in greater Europe.

Churchill lost his ministerial role, after the Second World War, to Anthony Eden. This had a rippling effect in Churchill’s life considering he had a lot of time on his hands with not much to do. He received huge amounts in dividends and royalties from selling rights of his war memoirs. He used it to pay off all his accrued debts.

Soon, he received an invitation to the grand opening of the Hotel de Paris’ wine cellar that had been previously closed during the world war. Churchill, propelled by his love for alcohol and gambling, accepted the offer without so much as a second thought. He threw himself into the fray moments after the ceremony concluded.

As was the norm before, he went on another losing streak. When asked to stop, he responded by writing a 1.3 million franc check that covered all pre and post-war debts. In good faith and as an act of kindness, it was never cashed. The establishment was thanking Churchill for his role in the war.

To Sum Up

Even though he was a charismatic leader and an even better writer, Churchill was not short of misgivings: his gambling story says it all. This informs us that we are all human. Though there isn’t any Churchill-themed casino game, all British casinos capture his enigma.


Review Name : Winston Churchill and His Addiction to Gambling

Author : Aaron Cooper

Published Date : 08/08/2019

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