Above, a cropier at the Monte Carlo casino goes through each of the six packs of cards to be used in trenteet-quarante, verifying that all are there, and that they are unmarked.  Right, a croupier and his team sort the “plaques” rectangular counters used for placing big bets at baccarat.

In 1898, an exclusive club known as the International Sporting Club was opened in François Blanc’s old house.  Here gamblers could play roulette, trente-et-quarante, chemin-de-fer, and baccarat right through the night.  In 1900 a tunnel leading directly from Monte Carlo station to the casino and Hôtel de Paris was built.  And in 1932 (just 10 years after the death of Camille Blanc) the International Sporting Club was removed to a large palace adjacent to the casino and the Hôtel de Paris.

As for the physical appearance of Monte Carlo today: Though a second casino (the Summer Casino) has been built in recent years, Blanc’s original building (now known as the Winter Casino) continues to dominate the town.  The main casino is entered by a flight of marble steps.  On the left of these steps is “Commissariat,” open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., where tickets for the public and private rooms are issued and identities checked.  The entrance leads into a long oblong hall overlooked by the Atrium, a gallery designed by the French architect Dumoulin.  Off the hall to the left is the casino’s theatre, and at the end the gaming news rooms.  These are extravagantly decorated by fashionable artists of the late 19th and early 20 the centuries.  In the salle blanche a big decorative panel representing the Florentine Graces was painted by Gervais, while the arched ceiling of the salle vert is the work of the painter Galleli.  The salle vert was originally designed as a smoking room (which explains why Gallei put cigars between the finger of the nude women he painted on the ceiling); but it has since been converted into an elegant bar.

The old Winter Casino has 11 rooms.  The smallest (i.e., the ones where the stakes are smallest ) are known collectively as “the Kitchen”: This is where the majority of Monte Carlo’s “amateur” gamblers play, and in summer months it is overrun by tourists in slacks.  (The New York Times recently descried the Kitchen as “the third class waiting-room of a railway station.”) It costs two and a half new francs to enter the Kitchen; and gambling on the roulette, trente-et-quarante, chemin-de-fer, and baccarat tables stops at midnight.

But the Kitchen accounts for only about a quarter of the casino’s revenue.  The really serious gambling takes place in the salles privées, where play on the roulette, chemin-de-fer, trente-et-quarante, craps, and baccarat tables goes on until the early hours of the morning.  (suits, incidentally, are obligatory in these rooms.) Admission to the salles privées costs five new francs ($ 1), and in them it is rare to see a bet of under 10,000new francs (the equivalent of about $ 2000).  The greatest concentration of cash is usually found at the baccarat table known as the banque à toul va (anything goes)  where a baccarat hand may be worth 200,000 new France ($ 40,000).

           

The big bets are placed with rectangular colored chips, called plaques: The orange ones represent 1000 new francs, the pink 2000 francs, the yellow 5000 francs, the white 10,000 francs, and the green 20,000 francs.  But it wasn’t always so.  Before the First World War, gamblers often used gold pieces instead of chips.  Because of this an Englishman, Sir Frederick Johnston, once won 25,000 francs ($ 5000) with a gold button from the sleeve of his jacket.  The button in question had come off and rolled onto the floor.  When the croupiers spotted it he called out “Don’t disturb yourself, Monsieur, is the Louis going?  On the red?”  At this Sir Frederick, who had not noticed the loss of his button, replied laughingly to what he thought was a joke: “Always red.”  He then left the room and forgot about the incident, until a croupier came running up, and handed him his winnings.  Sir Frederick tried to refuse the money, saying that he hadn’t played, but was finally persuaded to accept it.  only later did he discover the loss of his button and realize what has happened.

           

The gamblers at Monte Carlo are as miscellaneous a collection as at any other casino. But the atmosphere in the Winter Casino is different: It has the unmistakable overtones of the well-bred, and one has to go back to 1950 to find the last recorded occasion when there was a fracas in the salles privées.  It occurred when a Greek roulette player decided to bet on the number Five.  He covered it in every possible way – en plein, à cheval, carré, and transversale-and in every case with the maximum stake.  Though Five didn’t turn up, he won some of his bets through the combinations.  He bet again and again, always on these combinations, and won each time on one of the alternative numbers.  The level of excitement was raised to such a degree that the croupier accidentally rolled the ball in the same direction as the wheel.  Observing the mistake the chef de partie (who is in charge of the table) stopped the wheel, whereupon the gambler became abusive, swept his chips off the table and, in picking them up, missed the next turn of the wheel: Five came up.  The gambler’s abuse cost him the equivalent of $ 40,000.

The casino is open throughout the year.  And recently a special summer casino was built along the beach to help absorb the heavy influx of visitors that occurs during the summer months.  These visitors to Monte Carlo never lack entertainment.  Near the casino is the International Sporting Club, now used mainly for banquets and Friday-night galas which has more gaming tables; there is the casino poker restaurant, with its pale green walls water-lily chandeliers, and a resident prophetess (known as La Bohémienne) who specializes in palmistry, astrology, and graphology.  There is the Hôtel de Paris (adjoining the Sporting Club) a glowing edifice replete with marble and stained glass, boutiques  full of expensive jewelry; and for the more down-to-earth there is a theatre and an open-air cinema.