There is somewhere now on Earth more closely associated with the casino trade than Monaco; only Las Vegas comes close. The glamor and glitz of Monaco casinos is the first thing that anyone thinks of when the name of Monte Carlo is mentioned, and the five casinos sited in Monaco have played a huge role in the development of this tiny principle on the southern coast of France. Although nowdays the casino sector actually forms a fairly small part of the economy, Monaco casinos will always occupy a very special place in the history of the casino trade, as well as being the prime attraction for visitors to this glamorous enclave.
Monaco is the second-smallest independent state in the world (only the Vatican City is smaller) and has been ruled for over 700 years by the Grimaldi family; furthermore, there is no income tax in the principle. Consequently, it is home to some of the richest people in the world, who are attracted not only by its tax-haven status, but also by the glamor of living in one of Europe's most exclusive, and expensive, cities. Citizens of Monaco are, however, banned from entering the gaming rooms.
There are five Monaco casinos, the first of which, the Monte Carlo Casino, was inaugurated by Prince Charles III in 1863. The Monte Carlo Casino is housed in a magnificent building built in 1878 by Charles Garnier, who also designed the Opera in Paris, and commands spectacular views over the bay. Open daily, there is a strict dress code of jacket and tie for men. Like all Monaco casinos, it is run by the Société des Bains de Mer; despite a private company, the Grimaldi family are the major shareholders.
Monaco casinos have entered the popular consciousness due to their exclusive reputation and their glamorous associations. Monaco was the thinly-disguised setting for the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, and is also celebrated in the song "The Man who Broke the Bank in Monte Carlo," which is thought to be based on the story of one Charles Wells, who enjoyed spectacular success at the gaming tables in the early years of the Casino's existence. The continuing allure of Monaco casinos is one of the prime attractions for visitors to this tiny country, and no visitor to Monaco would consider their stay complete without at least one spin of the roulette wheel in one of Monte Carlo's famous casinos.