While you're likely familiar with Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the place where gambling as we know it truly began was in Monaco, in the seaside resort of Monte Carlo. The city is relatively young, especially for Europe, founded in 1866 at the foot of the Maritime Alps by Charles III, who was Monaco's prince at the time.  Like many cities and states in America that have since legalized gambling, the idea of opening a casino came from financial difficulties.


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Princess Caroline was the wife of Prince Florestan I and it was her belief that revenue from the casino would save the House of Grimaldi from bankruptcy. The ruling family's money problems had reached a peak when two towns, Menton and Roquebrune broke away from Monaco in 1848 and refused to pay taxes on olive oil and fruit imposed by the Grimaldi clan. Caroline and Florestan's son Charles recruited two Frenchmen — writer Albert Aubert and businessman Napoleon Langlois—to devise a development plan and write a prospectus to attract 4 million francs needed to build a spa for the treatment of various diseases, a gambling casino modeled from the Bad Homburg casino in Germany, and Villas like those featured on the coast in England.


Charles and his team were given 30 years to operate the establishment and gaming tables and the first casino opened in Villa Bellevu in 1856 and moved location several times over the years until it finally ended up in Les Speluges. At the time, this was considered very risky because of the lack of roads and visitors’ accommodations, plus a strange lack of publicity. These factors are why Aubert and Langlois ceded their rights to Frossard de Lilbonne, who in turn passed it to Pierre Auguste Daval in 1857.


Despite the fact that the casino was successful, Duval was overwhelmed by the work and thus Caroline was forced to recruit the gentleman who'd made the Bad Homburg such a success, François Blanc. It took some time and pressure, but Blanc finally agreed to take over the casino business and helped with the formation of a new company, the Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers. Included among the prominent investors in this venture were two Catholics of note:  Charles-Bonaventure-François Theuret, Bishop of Monaco, and Cardinal Pecci, the future Pope Leo XIII.

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From then, the casino operated in earnest and became the gold standard by which ever other casino in the world was judged. Designed by Charles Garnier, who also created the Paris Opera, the facility offers roulette, stud poker, blackjack, craps, baccarat and more modern games such as video poker and slot machines. Now associated with James Bond, the Circuit de Monaco and even Pixar movies, it's held its cachet while Las Vegas and Macau have grown much larger.