The Monte Carlo Casino

Published on: May 9, 2013 

Monte Carlo is known for two things. One is the Formula 1 race that is held on the streets every summer. In 2013 the race is scheduled for May 26. The other attraction is the Monte Carlo Casino. It has become a must visit place for anyone touring the Riviera, whether he is a gambler or not. The casino opened to public in 1863, exactly 150 years ago. This makes the Monte Carlo Casino about 70 years older than the first casino in Las Vegas and much older than the gambling hot spots of Atlantic City and Macau.

Using gambling to generate revenue for the state, though currently in the news, is an age old concept. In the middle of the 19th century the gambling was illegal in Monaco. In 1854 Prince Florestan I legalized the activity in order to fill the state’s coffers. The first casino in Monaco opened in 1856 in a villa near the harbor. Prince Charles III was a ruler with greater vision. Foreseeing the demand that future centuries would create he envisaged a completely new quarter now known as Monte Carlo. A grand casino was to be built there. Charles Garnier, the designer of the Paris opera, was selected as the architect for the new casino. It was conceived in the prevalent Baroque style. The construction of the casino was commenced in 1858. Francois Blanc was a gambling operator of some repute, who at that time was in charge of casinos in some of the towns in Germany. It so happened that gambling was banned in Germany around that time. Fortunately for him, Blanc managed to obtain a 50-year concession to operate the gambling rooms in the new casino in Monte Carlo.

The Monte Carlo Casino opened to the public in 1863. However, it was not as big a draw as expected. Because of the lack of sufficient traffic Blanc was unable to pay his fee. It was then that Blanc made one of the most innovative moves in the history of gambling. Roulette wheels operated with 0 and 00 to give casinos the house edge. Blanc introduced wheels in the Monte Carlo Casino without 00. Getting an advantage over other casinos players began to flock to the Monte Carlo Casino after that. Soon the single 0 roulette wheel became the standard in Europe.

Two of the most exciting moments in the history of the Monte Carlo Casino were when gamblers broke the bank. In 1873 Joseph Jagger realized that one of the roulette wheels was biased and exploited the situation by breaking the bank several times. In 1891 Charles Wells managed to borrow money by conning financers that he could break the bank using the Martingale doubling system. By a stroke of luck he broke the bank and this gave a new lease of life to the useless Martingale doubling system. In 1898 Blanc’s concession expired and the new one was given to the Societe des Bains de Mer, which still runs the casino. The Monte Carlo Casino has featured in many movies, such as Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye, both appropriately from the James Bond series. It is also the home of two leading poker tournaments, the Monte Carlo Millions and the finals of the European Poker Tour.

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