Nicely tucked away within London’s exclusive Mayfair neighborhood is The Clermont Club. This members’ only club has hosted the cream of British society including Dukes and Cabinet Ministers.
John Victor Aspinall was expelled from Rugby School; he did not take his final exams at Jesus College, Oxford and he did not have a degree. But in 1962, Aspinall founded The Clermont Club.
Aspinall was a gamer, in fact the reason he did not make it to his finals was because he was at the Ascot racecourse since this was one of the few places where people could legally place bets. It is therefore not surprising that he became a book-keeper and progressed to holding illegal gambling parties that targeted the rich and their money.
The law eventually caught up with him and he was arrested and charged but in an interesting turn of events he won the case and as a result gaming laws in Britain changed. It was these relaxed laws that allowed Aspinall to bring together The Clermont Set that were the original members of the club.
Even at its inception The Clermont Club dealt only with the wealthiest members of the society. Since the law stated that casinos had to invite people to become members, The Clermont Club invited only those with hefty cash reserves to sit at its tables. Among its most notable patrons were earls and marquises.
The club will always be remembered for the Private Eye controversy where one of its members, James Goldsmith sued the magazine for defamation. It had accused The Clermont Set of shielding Lord Lucan (who was also a member of the club) from prosecution for the alleged murder of his family’s nanny. The case was settled out of court.
And that was not the worst of it; a few years after the casino opened there were allegations that its proprietor had joined forces with the mob to fleece its customers of their money. It was said that Aspinall, his financial manager John Burke and John McKew (a local racketeer) had stolen thousands of pounds from unsuspecting gamblers.
This scandal that came to be known as ‘the Big Edge’ proved to be the undoing of The Clermont Club and in 1972 Aspinall sold his brainchild to Playboy Enterprises who were also unable to run it and sold it ten years later.
Like the proverbial phoenix, The Clermont Club has risen from its tarnished reputation to once again claim its spot among London’s most esteemed casinos. It now offers its members a private environment in which to enjoy a game with friends.
For members who prefer more intimate sessions, the club has availed two private rooms where they receive service that is tailored to their needs. And for those who need some fresh air as they strategize, the terrace is the place to be. Finally, when the games are over one can enjoy a fine meal and catch up with friends at the club’s in-house restaurant.