Before we start, I should add that I have never stepped foot inside the Casino in Monte Carlo, (cameras are strictly forbidden inside the casino’s gilded rooms). I’m not a woman who gambles, I leave that to my two younger sisters. No, my visit was purely to admire the building’s glorious exterior, albeit somewhat hampered as there are some more renovations currently taking place.
The Casino is owned and operated by the Société des bains de mer de Monaco (SBM), a public company largely owned by the Monaco government and the ruling royal family. This company also owns the principal hotels, sports clubs, restaurants and nightclubs in the Principality.
In most people’s minds this building, the world’s grandest and most famous Casino, is closely associated with James Bond. Its Beaux Arts architecture supposedly inspired novelist Ian Fleming’s casino in his first Bond novel, “Casino Royale” and it features in the Bond films “Never Say Never Again” and “GoldenEye.” Without a doubt, it is the most iconic building in the principality.
Immediately to the left of the Casino complex is the Café de Paris, a popular spot for a drink and people-watching. To the right is the recently refurbished Hôtel de Paris, an ornate hotel that opened around the same time as the Casino, and is considered to be one of Monaco’s finest. But it’s the Casino that’s the place to see and be seen. Once it opens its doors at 2 pm, valets can be seen zipping in and out of all manner of impossibly expensive cars.
Inaugurated in 1863, Prince Florestan constructed this Belle Epoque–era paradise to save the House of Grimaldi from bankruptcy. It was an effort to address his nation’s debt, an effort to entice the English elite (and their wealth) to Monaco. The principality raised money for its development – including the construction of the casino – by selling 80% of its area to France, including the then villages of Roquebrune and Menton for four million francs plus the promise that France would build a road and rail-line from Nice to Monaco.
After a bit of a rocky start, businessman François Blanc who’d successfully run a casino in Germany (since closed) took over the Casino and it went from strength to strength, particularly once the steam train arrived in 1868. The following year, the Casino welcomed some 170,000 visitors, including Alexandre Dumas, Baron de Rothschild, Baron Haussmann, Jacques Offenbach and Prince Napoleon. As a consequence of the profits rolling in from the Casino, the prince abolished the taxes paid by his subjects.
By 1873, the Casino was the only one operating in Europe. In order to preserve its air of exclusion and luxury, the Casino was renovated in 1878 by Charles Garnier, he of Paris Opera fame, and architect Dutrou. The Casino was subsequently further expanded with the addition of more gaming rooms, gardens, restaurants, bars and a theatre for opera and ballet. These have been renovated on a regular basis to maintain their munificence, including the harmonisation of its expanded façade.
Here’s a sneak peek at its splendid interior. By far the
safest best way to enjoy it!