Tiny, independent, luxurious, and remarkable; these words describe the Principality of Monaco a bit but there are more to its fame. From affluent hotels, lounge bars, sports clubs and restaurants to expensive nightclubs, boutiques, spas and – most especially – casinos, Monaco (principally Monte-Carlo) is one of the territories with an overwhelming catalog of luxurious attractions.
Located on the Mediterranean seashore of France, Monaco is additionally known for its reputable once-in-a-year appearance of the Formula 1’s Grand Prix organised automobile race, an harbour lined by expensive yachts, boats, barges and cruise ships, the baroque Opéra de Monte-Carlo (Salle Garnier) opera house in Monte-Carlo, the exquisite Jardin Exotique de Monaco garden, the fancy Oceanographic Museum in Monaco-Ville, the prestigious Grimaldi Forum exhibition and trade centre in Larvotto, and a wealth of many more attractions.
Despite the fact that Monaco is the second smallest independent state in Europe and one of the smallest in the world, many refer to Monte-Carlo (a region of the principality) as the gambling capital of Europe. Then, how did Monaco become so popular and a hub of some of the world’s most remarkable gambling facilities? While the history of gambling in Monaco is quite unknown, the first appearance of gambling was the establishment of one of the world’s oldest casinos.
As far back as the 19th century, the ruling authority of Monaco – the House of Grimaldi – was on the brink of bankruptcy following Menton and Roquebrune’s independence in 1848 and refusal to pay any tax. To conquer this, Prince Florestan I – Monaco’s ruler at the time – decided to take heed of the recommendation of Princess Caroline (his business-minded, astute spouse). Constructing a fully functional casino was her brilliant idea to raise enough funds to get the principality (or the House to be specific) out of its financial problems.
In 1854, Prince Florestan I’s son and later ruler of Monaco, Prince Charles III, contracted two Frenchmen – Napoleon Langlois (an entrepreneur) and Albert Aubert (a writer) – to outline a strategy to raise about ₣4 million. The funds were to build a number of villas similar to the English’s, a casino similar to the prestigious Spielbank Bad Homburg (Bad Homburg Casino) in Germany, and a spa for disease and infection treatments.
Funds were raised and the construction began, then the team of two was awarded a 30-year license (actually, a concession of operation). Exactly on December 14th, 1856, the establishment temporarily opened in Villa Bellevu as Le Casino de Monte-Carlo with a handful of the projected facilities.
However, the establishment failed its anticipation because the team could not effectively market it, accommodations included were not up to par, and Monaco itself – being considerably undeveloped and lacking roads – did not encourage such business. As a result, the concession was passed to Frossard de Lilbonne, followed by Pierre Auguste Daval some months after the establishment opened.
During these acquisitions, the establishment was moved a number of times before eventually settling in Les Spelugues after construction by Gobineau de la Bretonnerie (a Farsi architect) started on May 13th, 1858 and ended in 1863. Four years before the construction ended, the casino started seeing a little profit but Pierre Auguste Daval also could not live up to Princess Caroline’s expectations.
Therefore, she took a strategic measure to match up to her expectations by trying to lure Spielbank Bad Homburg’s prominent operator François Blanc to the establishment’s board of executive. The princess sent M. Eyneaud, her personal assistant, to Bad Homburg, Germany to convince François and also befriended Madame Blanc on her first trip. To reinforce her gesture of friendship during Madame’s sickness, she suggested she moved to Monaco for its more lenient weather.
Eventually, François Blanc succumbed to her pressures in 1863. With ₣15 million (investments from him, Cardinal Pecci, Charles-Bonaventure-François Theuret, and many more), he created Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers (the SBM) to operate and run Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Hotel de Paris, and Le Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Accordingly, Le Casino de Monte-Carlo became a success within and outside Monaco. Its popularity grew so rapidly that the fictional British spy, James Bond, has been associated with the casino a number of times. For one, the casino appeared in Casino Royale, the first novel of the spy; James Bond films such as Never Say Never Again, Casino Royale, and GoldenEye also showcased the casino and some other casinos in Monaco. Also, the first Olympiades Féminines (Women’s Olympiad) of 1921 was held at the garden of Le Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Following the success, more and more casinos were established over the years by the same Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Étrangers à Monaco. Currently, the company operates Casino Le Café de Paris, Le Casino de Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort – Casino, and Sun Casino – Fairmont Monte-Carlo Hotel.
Pertaining the legal aspect of gambling in Monaco, gambling (or casino gambling to be accurate) was made licit in all regions of Monaco but limited to foreigners on December 6th, 1856. The Ministry of Finance and Economy has ever since been the overseer of Monaco’s gambling industry. By overseeing, the Ministry is to regulate casinos and casino games, monitor the non-citizen-foreigner-only limitation and enforce the legal opening hours for casinos.
Additionally, Monaco uses a concession system which means an operator must be granted a permit by the constitutional head of state, the Prince of Monaco. To monitor the aforementioned limitation, a player can only enter a casino in Monaco by tendering his/her valid ID proof (preferably a passport) which clearly displays the photo, age, residence and nationality of the player. Lastly, casinos in Monaco follow a uniform, strict dress code.
Meanwhile, on June 12th, 1987, the Gambling Act (numbered 1.103) was approved and established the Gambling Authority of Monaco (Service de Contrôle des Jeux). Today, gambling in Monaco is legally referred to the Law of 1856, the Law of 1863, the Act of 1987, the Law (numbered 1.261 – approved on December 23rd, 2002), the Penal Code, and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Casino gambling is legal in Monaco – and ineffectively, casinos are licensed and regulated by the Gambling Authority. The principality makes use of a concession system instead of the broadly used license approval system. Nonetheless, there are five premium and exclusive casinos in Monaco. Admittedly, the number might not be impressive but they are more than enough in every sense.
Altogether, they offer more than 900 gaming machines and a figure close to 100 of European and American table games. There is a wide variety of both classifications of casino games readily available. The casinos are situated in or near a number of hotels with plenty luxe rooms, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, etc. Monaco, or Monte-Carlo to be precise, is one of the most lively destinations in the world. Gambling in Monaco is widely promoted and encouraged by the government and royal family as gambling contributes greatly to the principality’s economy.
Nonetheless, Monaco’s four biggest casinos are ancient (the last two are more contemporary). And although they are renovated and equipped frequently, it seems gambling is completely monopolized in Monaco. The exceptional casino is fresh but relatively small and very unpopular. This is because gambling is more business than entertainment for Monaco’s administration.
Lastly, the Principality of Monaco is a destination with many attractions. With or without considering the luxe casinos, visiting Monaco is never a bad idea. The citizens spend EUR and speak French – although a good percentage of the Monegasques speak Monégasque, Italian, Occitan, English, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and German. With so many features to love, Monaco is one or the most tourist-friendly territories on the planet.
Four out of the five casinos in Monaco are situated in Monte Carlo, which is the principality’s most populated administrative area. The last casino is situated in the municipality of Larvotto. (Therefore, the capital city of Monaco, which is also Monaco, have zero casinos.) All these five casinos offer almost 1000 gaming machines and around 100 table games.
Casino Le Café de Paris is the country’s largest, with 337 gaming machines and a gaming space of around 108,000 square feet. Sun Casino – Fairmont Monte-Carlo Hotel comes in second with 263 gaming machines and 20 table games. The historic Casino de Monte-Carlo comes in third with 140 gaming machines and 56 table games.
With 167 gaming machines, Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort – Casino is the fourth largest casino. With no description of its gaming machines and table games, Salle Des Palmiers – Summer Casino is probably the smallest casino in Monaco.
In Monte-Carlo, Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Étrangers à Monaco operates four luxe casinos and equally four high-end luxe hotels, so casino gambling is posh in this principality. In addition, there are tons of hotels in Monte-Carlo situated close to the casinos. However, gambling is obviously suitable for wealthy foreigners in Monaco exclusively.
The casinos themselves offer a wide variety of American and European table games (such as roulette, blackjack, poker, baccarat, craps, punto banco, video poker, Punto 2000 Dragon Bonus, mini-craps, English roulette, Texas Hold’em Ultimate, electronic roulette, Trente et Quarante, and Stud poker) in addition to the many types of slot machines available. Nonetheless, poker is particularly popular in Monaco as there are many poker tournaments – while it is the opposite for bingo considering the fact that it was not even mentioned in the laws.
While land-based gambling is flourishing in Monaco, online gambling is directly opposite. The country has no online gambling licensee but foreigners in Monaco can participate in any form of gambling online without any violation of the law.
Generally, apart from casino gambling, all other forms of gambling are almost non-existent in this part of Europe. From the world-famous lottery to the Europe-frenzy sports betting, they are all unpopular. (Notwithstanding, Monegasques can buy EuroMillions tickets.) This is chiefly because citizens are not allowed to participate in any form of gambling.
Also, it is safe to say that foreigners are more interested in luxe casinos and elegant cruise ships than any other gambling facility. In fact, Monaco is one of the scanty territories without a national lottery, a land-based or online sportsbook, a racetrack, and without other gambling facilities.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Monaco.
Casino Le Café de Paris
Le Casino de Monte-Carlo
Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort – Casino
Salle Des Palmiers – Summer Casino
Sun Casino – Fairmont Monte-Carlo Hotel
– Like most countries, the minimum gambling age in Monaco is 18 years. Players must provide a proof of identity so as to verify they are not Monegasques and at least 18 years old.
– Monaco citizens were not allowed to work at the casinos until recently.
– Formula 1’s Grand Pix started in 1894 but came to Monaco in 1929.
– Monaco’s population consists of about 80 percent foreigners mainly because of the principality’s foreigner-friendly luxe establishments.
– François Blanc invented the single-zero roulette. He was widely known as the Magician of Monte Carlo and enforced the game to be exclusive to Le Casino de Monte Carlo until 1933.
– Despite the existence of the Gambling Authority, casinos in Monaco are actually self-regulated and operate according to their own rules.
– Monaco is a member of the United Nations, the Council Of Europe, Kyoto Protocol, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
– There is a chain of casino cruise ships, Silversea Cruises, with six distinct ships located in Fontvieille, Monaco. They are Silver Cloud, Silver Cloud Expedition, Silver Shadow, Silver Spirit, Silver Whisper, and Silver Wind.
– For humanity, Le Casino de Monte-Carlo partnered with One Drop, Caesars Interactive Entertainment, and Group Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer for a poker tournament called the Monte-Carlo One Drop Extravaganza (or the Big One Invitational) to raise funds for One Drop (a charity geared at providing healthy, safe drinking water). The tournament took place from October 13th to 17th in 2016 and resulted in the third biggest poker event prize ever. Elton Tsang, a Canadian-born Chinese poker player, won the mouth-watering prize of €11,111,111 and a fancy bracelet designed by Richard Mille. The charity itself raised more than $3 million.
– The world-famous PokerStars gaming brand held its fourth Championship poker tournament in Le Casino de Monte-Carlo in 2017 with cash prizes of more than €30 million.
– Two of the biggest poker gaming brands, the World Poker Tour and PokerStars, collaborated in 2017 for the very first PokerStars Championship WPT MonteDam Swing, presented by Le Casino de Monte-Carlo. The cash prize was estimated to be €32.5 million.
– In April 2017, a 33-year-old player by handle “nick2101983” won $1 million in the PokerStars Makes Millionaires.
– Gobineau de la Bretonnerie, who designed Le Casino de Monte-Carlo, also built Hôtel de Paris (where Casino Le Café de Paris is situated) in 1962.
– For more than a decade, Le Casino de Monte-Carlo was the sole revenue generator for Monaco’s economy and – most especially – the House of Grimaldi.
– The 1921 five-day multi-sports Olympiades Feminines was the very first multinational sports event for women.
– Even till today, the Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers is still a public company managed by Monaco’s government and the royal family.
– Phil Ivey is a remarkable poker star in the historical backdrop of Le Casino de Monte Carlo. In 2014, he came third place among 80 rivals in the Monte Carlo Millions and won the competition. He won $1 million in 2015 and emerged as the winner of the Monte Carlo Millions Invitational Event the next day.
– The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo is a Fred Gilbert song which he sang around 1892 and made popular by British comedian Charles Coborn. The song is linked to two occurrences that occurred in Le Casino de Monte-Carlo. First, Charles Wells who won one and a half million Francs collectively (12 wins under 11 hours) using the now-debunked Martingale system. Second, a British engineer-Joseph Jagger-who found a bias in one of the six roulette wheels causing some certain numbers to appear more than often and made millions of Francs by capitalizing on the bias.
– There are about 256 gambling websites accessible to people in Monaco.
– Ben Mezrich wrote in his book Busting Vegas a team of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) blackjack players who succeeded at winning a lot of money in Le Casino de Monte-Carlo. Semyon Dukach, who Ben mentioned as a leader of the team, later stated that the team was instead made up of Andy Bloch, someone nicknamed Katie, and himself.
– According to a gambling law enacted by Princess Caroline, Monegasques are banned from gambling within Monaco and – especially – from participating in the gaming rooms of the casinos. In fact, Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Étrangers à Monaco literally translates to The Society of Sea Baths and the Circle of Foreigners in Monaco.
– Apparently, the class of computational algorithms called ‘Monte Carlo methods’ got its name from Le Casino de Monte-Carlo.
– The gambler’s fallacy is widely called the Monte Carlo fallacy because, in 1913, a roulette wheel landed on black with a streak of 26 in Le Casino de Monte-Carlo.
– In addition to James Bond’s films, Steven Soderbergh’s 2004 American film Ocean’s Twelve showcased Le Casino de Monte-Carlo.
– Controversially, some people believe Joseph Jagger who broke Le Casino de Monte-Carlo was somehow related to English singer Mick Jagger. However, there is no fact to back this up so it remains a controversy.
– For more than 30 years now, the annual World Backgammon Championship have been holding in Monte Carlo.
– For many years, Le Casino de Monte-Carlo hosted the European Poker Tour Grand Finals until 2011.
– Although slot machines came into France in the late 20th century, they have existed in Monaco years earlier.
– The 2004 Monte Carlo Millions was the principality’s very first poker tournament and was publicised by the Monaco Government Tourist Office.
– The Cercle Monte-Carlo Card is a card to access all services provided by the SBM.
– One of the largest casino-hotel company in the world, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd., bought 5 percent of SBM’s shares in 2015.