Casinos are everywhere, from the streets of Las Vegas to the skies of Macau.
Across the world, casinos come in all shapes and sizes, but few places hold them as the very heart of their ethic or integral to their history. Sure, Las Vegas relies on casinos to drag tourists in, but nowhere on earth has a relationship with casinos quite like Monaco.
Monaco is nestled on the French Riviera, a sovereign city-state attracting millions with its sandy beach, beautiful bay and stunning scenery. It only boasts 36,000 inhabitants but is one of the wealthiest places on earth. The streets are littered with supercars, the bay loaded with super yachts bobbing up and down on the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. Why is it so wealthy? Because of its casinos.
Monaco was once a colony of Genoa but shifted to the possession of the Grimaldi family in the fifteenth century. In 1854, at the behest of Princess Caroline, a casino opened there looking to attract wealth from across Europe. As railroad access improved, Monaco thrived, and in 1869, the principality stopped collecting taxes from its residents as a direct result of the gaming revenue. That applies to this day, with Monaco’s fabulous wealth and status as a tax haven coming from those early casino days.
You can visit the casinos of Monaco to this day and still enjoy the games played more than a century ago by Europe’s elite. However, when you’re in the Monte Carlo Casino, open since 1869, you’re not just there for gaming; you’re there witnessing part of Monaco’s heritage and history. If you are in Europe and wish to visit the casinos of Monaco, these are the ones to keep an eye out for.
Casino de Monte Carlo
The original Monte Carlo casino should be your first port of call on a Monaco casino odyssey. It featured in the James Bond film Casino Royale, in a scene between Bond and LeChiffre. The two men were doing what thousands have done before and after, and what you should do if you get a chance to visit playing poker in a casino. Poker is just one of the many attractions on offer here, but don’t turn up in a hoodie and track pants, as there’s little doubt you won’t get in. Interestingly, despite the exterior featuring in Casino Royale, the opulent interior did not. Bond has been there, though; it was used in Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye.
Casino Café de Paris
The Casino Café de Paris dates back to 1854, but you wouldn’t be able to tell as it has had a stunning remodel to bring it bang up to date. It’s a relaxed slice of Monaco’s history, demonstrating the progression of technology and style as much as anything. There’s no dress code here, so you can indulge in a game of poker without fear of being ejected for not having the right attire. Texas Hold’em is the game of choice, the most popular casino poker variant out there, but if you prefer not to go all-in on a flop, you can turn to blackjack or roulette too. There are more than 480 state-of-the-art slot machines to play, which have paid out more than €309m ($357m) this year alone. If you are a high roller, there are 12 high limit video poker machines that you can play for up to €500 ($578) a time.
Monte Carlo Bay Casino
What is heritage and history? A progression over time, from the old to the new, integration of customs and traditions but interpreted for a new, modern world. That’s why the trip around Monaco casinos should end here, at the Monte Carlo Bay Casino. Why? Because it is a glimpse into the future of casinos. There are no table games, no spies subtly poisoning each other in thousand-dollar suits. It is all electric; the roulette is electronic, there are gaming machines on the terrace too, and it is very contemporary and modern. It might not feel like the typical European casino experience, but it is pitched somewhere between the gaudy noise of Vegas and the class and character of Europe.