I write a lot of blogs about gambling and casinos, mostly because I like doing so, but also because it puts bread on my table and beer in my fridge. It’s almost like magic, but with a great deal more typing involved. Regardless, in the process of writing these blogs I’ve built up a pretty fair knowledge of the gambling industry as a whole, as was bound to happen. Most of the history around the industry is pretty interesting, but one story stands out to me as particularly fascinating; the story of Monaco.
Mention of Monaco these days will immediately conjure images of sports cars, fancy yachts, F1 racing and impressive scenery, the sort of place many dream of living. I don’t personally dream of living there, mind you, namely because the F1 racing must be absolutely deafening. There is a racetrack a few kilometres from where I live right now, and trust me when I say those cars are stupidly loud.
The point is though that Monaco was not always the land of yachts and sports cars. In fact, if going back to the 1800s one will find that Monaco was mostly an agricultural area, and not particularly fancy at all. It also suffered from some pretty severe debt.
The Master Plan Of Charles And Catherine
One of the things that I like most about the story of Monaco is that it involves a scheme dreamt up by a Prince and Princess. You just don’t get resourceful Princes and Princesses these days, and I hoped that Charles III and his bride Catherine, the rulers of Monaco back in the 1800s, were smart, good looking people. I Googled Charles III and although he wasn’t especially good looking, but he did have a pretty impressive crop of facial hair, so that’s something at least.
Charles and Catherine knew that Monaco was in a bad way, and so came up with a plan to draw some serious wealth into the region, as quickly as possible. So they constructed casinos, five of them over a period of a few years. The goal of the casinos was to draw wealthy gamblers, specifically, from the United Kingdom, and use the profits to save Monaco from the financial woes.
Was the plan a success? Well, Monaco isn’t full of sports cars and yachts these days because the plan was a failure, that’s for sure. The plan was so successful, in fact, that the people of Monaco pay no taxes. To recap the story; Monaco went from an area with financial trouble to a land of wealth, based entirely on the scheme of Charles III and his wife Catherine. If that doesn’t make your jaw hang open, I’m not sure what will.
Monaco Citizens Forbidden From Gambling
Charles III, however, knew that in order for Monaco to benefit, the profits earned from the casinos had to go where it was needed. In other words; he had to make sure that the people of Monaco did not spend their own money in the casinos, or the financial benefits would be all but negated. So, in a masterful stroke of genius, he passed a law that Monaco residents were not allowed into their own casinos.
I said earlier that I hoped Charles and Catherine were smart, and the passing of this law more or less proves that Charles was a man who knew what was what. Building casinos in your struggling kingdom, and then allowing residents into those casinos would have been, lets face it, disastrous. The law remains in place still today, which is a bit questionable, but I say that when a region has been this successful up until now, messing with a recipe is just asking for trouble.
Charles And The Zero Pocket
The last thing I’d like to mention about the story of Monaco, and a part I particularly like, is the link between Charles and the roulette wheel. I’ve written about the roulette wheel before, and I’ve learnt quite a bit about its origins. But, it was not until I researched this blog that realised a rather fascinating fact.
Charles had roulette wheels brought into his casinos when first establishing them, but asked a pair of designers how he could make roulette more financially beneficial to the house. He was, as we recall, after profits as quickly as possible. In response to Charles’s the two designers introduced the zero pocket to the wheel, which increased the house edge a small, but significant amount.
That’s right; before Charles III got his hands on the roulette wheel, it had been without a zero pocket. The zero pocket had been added very simply as a way to help Charles draw wealth into his struggling region, and become adopted as the standard design of the wheel. Later, of course, the double zero pocket would be added, but that was much later, and in my honest opinion the work of people just being plain greedy. I say the zero pockets should have stopped with wise, well-bearded Charles III.