The casino always
What is dependably
and fundamentally and always true is that the casino itself has an infallible
system for winning at games of chance. It is owned by the Soci�t� Anonyme des
Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers � Monaco, a mouthful of a name that was
chosen because it seemed more decorous a century ago to proclaim Monte Carlo as
a place where one might take a bath in the sea rather than at chemin de fer.
The company does not disclose its gambling profits. Too discouraging, perhaps.
It lumps them discreetly with profits and losses on its other properties—the de
luxe H�tel de Paris and associated fine hostelries and restaurants, the golf,
tennis and beach clubs, the new bowling alley and the Sporting Club. The latter
is a casino with a reputation for swank because, unlike the original casino,
only men in dinner jackets and women in evening gowns are admitted on gala
nights. The old casino's big public room, known as "the kitchen" to
distinguish it from the private rooms, bars only shirtsleeved men wearing
suspenders. Shirtsleeves and belts are permissible. Women may wear shorts, and
some few do. In the private rooms more suitable dress is required.
depending on world trends and other unpredictable factors, the Soci�t� as a
whole will have a losing year (the last was in 1948), but the casino always
pays its way. In fiscal 1960, which ended March 31, the Soci�t� reported that
it had made 2 million new francs (a little over $400,000), and by recent
standards that was not too bad a year. The Soci�t� is not a sensationally
profitable enterprise. Just steady. If it did not have to support some losing
attractions, like golf and concerts, it would do much better.
There is a
deliberate avoidance of the sensational at Monte Carlo. Even the 110 slot
machines, installed blushingly to satisfy busloads of non-punting tourists who
troop and gawk through the gaming rooms several times a day, are painted a dull
aluminum, by no means reminiscent of the gaudy cerise and magenta of Las Vegas.
The slots take a one-franc piece (20�), the smallest bet you can make at the
casino, and they take it with voracious monotony.
Just as the slot
machines are drab, the casino pace is slow. The roulette croupier spins his
wheel about 50 times an hour, little more than half the speed of a Las Vegas
wheelman. Action at the lone craps table proceeds with such deliberate speed
that Americans, accustomed to a far faster game, become impatient. Except at a
season's height, the table operates for only a few hours a night, generally
between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Perhaps because of the slow and unexciting pace,
wagers on the dice are moderate. An innovation of 1949, intended to attract
Americans, craps is mostly a curiosity for Europeans.
The casino day
begins at 9 a.m., one hour before the public is admitted. Down in the casino
basement the vaults are unlocked and money and chips brought up to the
cashiers' windows and the gaming tables. One of the chip vaults, a tall (6 feet
6 inches) strong box, holds a million dollars' worth of chips in wooden trays.
There are 11 kinds of chips, ranging in value from 5 francs (about $1) to
20,000 (about $4,000). The big chip, green and iridescent, is not used in
ordinary play because the maximum bet, with one exception, is 10,000 francs.
Chips worth 500 francs and above are oblong and referred to as plaques. The
round chips are called jetons. The 20,000-franc chip comes in handy for passing
change to big winners.
More chips and the
casino's money reserve are kept in other vaults. The casino deals in currencies
of all nations except those behind the Iron Curtain. No one will tell you how
much money is stored at the casino, but every day or so, depending on how
business has been, guards transport some 90,000 francs to the nearby bank. The
sum is by no means net profit. There are payrolls, upkeep and other
On the payroll are
230 croupiers employed at roulette, craps and trente el quarante. Another 50
work baccarat tables. There are 20 cashiers. A staff of charwomen and porters
numbers close to 200. Forty interior guards and 15 secret service men,
including professional physiognomists with nearly infallible memories for the
faces of crooks, are kept busy.
From time to time
crooks do attempt to beat the casino. The last serious try was made in 1956 by
three Americans. They brought to Monte Carlo 84 pairs of crooked dice,
counterfeits of the casino cubes, and quickly won $6,750, a profit that was
merely apparent. Actually, at this point they were $28,250 in the hole because
one year previous they had dropped $35,000 in an eventually successful effort
to steal one of the casino dice to be counterfeited.
In an ordinary game
dice-switching is a simple sleight, but under the eyes of an experienced
croupier it is not so simple. The casino dice, furthermore, are changed every
half hour, or whenever the croupier feels intuitively like changing them, or
when a secret service man signals that a change would be advisable. On this
occasion, one of the secret service men thought that the three crooks, though
winning, were oddly nervous. He ordered a change of dice, and one of the crooks
tremulously passed the croupier a pair of loaded dice instead of the casino's
own cubes. The three then left hurriedly. They were caught that evening at
Nice, trying to book passage to America, and were sentenced to terms in the