But is it art?

Depending on where your mind’s eye takes you when you hear the word casino, you may or may not immediately think of a connection between them and art. Many modern casinos are housed in utilitarian buildings, but this is not always the case. In fact, the Monte Carlo Casino was built on a grand scale reminiscent of the neo-baroque palaces in Paris. Built-in the Belle Epoque style, designed by the same architect who created the Paris Opera, it was probably one of the casino world’s biggest-ever bets on art. The then Prince of Monaco, Charles III, was facing bankruptcy and needed a grand plan to turn things around.

A salon fit for most refined visitor

The complex was designed to have a beautiful, lavish appearance with marble floors and pillars and boasts decadent arched windows. The buildings included a golden opera house called the Salle Garnier, which was stuffed full of paintings and sculptures by famous artists. The Salle Europe has a lounge bar and gaming tables and works by Paul Steck, Felix-Hippolyte Lucas, Pedro Ribera, and Georges Picard. These were all feted French artists who had received accolades for their work and were selected for display by Marie Blanc, who was known for her refined taste.

Not all of the paintings that are there now were there from the outset, but later additions were placed there with the same intention as the original ones. The whole building oozes luxury and style and is designed to attract the very highest echelons of society. Charles III needed the wealthiest of the wealthiest to come and place their bets at his gaming tables. The concept was one of reassuringly expensive glamour.

A gamble to beat bankruptcy

The casino opened in 1865 and had been in the offing for almost twenty years. It had been the brain-child of Princess Caroline when the family had been trying to work out how to prop up their precarious finances and bring in much-needed revenues. They had lost their olive oil and fruit income stream when Mentorn and Roquebrun broke away in 1848.


The idea of a casino to attract visitors to the Principality was first mooted around this time, and it took over a decade for it to come into existence and a good deal longer for it to become a success.

How to avoid potential pitfalls

While the idea was to bring in more revenue, Princess Caroline was also aware that casinos could bring unforeseen problems with them. For example, the first known gambling house, The Ridotto, had been opened in Venice in 1638 to provide controlled gambling during Carnivale. However, it had to be closed around one hundred and fifty years later as the government realized it was impoverishing the local gentry. Monaco’s royal family did not want to fall into the same trap and planned only to attract the wealthiest people to play at their pleasure palaces. They were particularly keen to attract wealthy British and French visitors touring Europe.

To this day, it is still illegal for Monegasques to play at the casino tables. They are only allowed inside to work. However, they are not prevented from gambling online and, like anyone else, can enjoy themselves at any of the online casinos with the fastest payouts. According to evaluator Adam Ryan, some of the best ones will be paid within 24 hours. While that is not quite as fast as the cashier in a land-based casino, it is still very impressive, and no one needs to get on a flight or travel anywhere.

Traveling around Europe in style

Travel was one of the earliest barriers that Monte Carlo Casino faced. They might have wanted people on their Grand Tour of Europe to take in the art on display in the salons of Monaco, but hardly anyone came. The problem was there were very few roads between Monaco and Nice, let alone the rest of Europe. This meant that those travelling from London in the 19th century could not easily get to the Monte Carlo Casino, meaning footfall was low and infrequent. That does seem ironic now when you consider that the second-smallest country in the world is not only famous for its casino but also for hosting one of the world’s most glamorous and famous Formula One racing events. But that is a later story that did not happen until 1929.

More than just a place to gamble

When the casino in Monaco first opened, it was just that. There was nowhere for people to stay, and it was Charles who worked on plans with Albert Aubert and Napoleon Langlois to develop a resort that people would want to come to. In addition to a casino, there would be villas, hotels, and spas to treat various ailments. However, it was not until Francois Blanc was persuaded to come to Monaco with a fifty-year concession to run the place that it started to boom and become the success we know today.


The first thing he did was change its name to something straightforward and memorable. Honoring Prince Charles, the Casino de Monte Carlo came into existence. During this period, the building was remodeled, and more gaming rooms were added. The lavish remodeling included, of course, the addition of more important works of art.

Art installations to keep attracting visitors

The casino continues to reinvent itself and has never lost touch with its art connections. They now offer customers a transformative art experience that changes every season with temporary art installations in the Atrium and Rotonde. The events focus on the themes of the Art of the Game and the Game of Art. Unlike many other events at the casino, they are open to all and free to enter.

The current installation is called The Sea is Green Monte-Carlo! and is inspired by the seabed with a school of jellyfish floating in the Atrium. The summer exhibition promises Giant Roulette and will feature an actual wheel, and the visitor takes on the role of a betting chip. If that isn’t a casino betting on art to attract new visitors, then it is hard to know what is!