There is no casino more grand and more famous than the Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco. The ornate gambling house has been featured in multiple “James Bond” movies and is perhaps the most iconic building in the tiny principality.
Cameras are strictly forbidden inside the casino’s gilded rooms. But Reuters photographer Eric Gaillard recently gained access to document the casino’s inner workings over three days.
He wrote on Reuters’ photographers’ blog: “I was surprised by the lavishly decorated interior, and greeted by the sound of vacuum cleaners as valets cleaned the gaming tables, removing dust and bits of foreign matter that might compromise gambling results. I quickly realise how privileged I am to witness this private world with its codes and particularities.”
Now step inside the world’s grandest casino and meet the people who make it tick.
The 'Belle Epoque'-style Casino de Monte Carlo is the centrepiece of Monaco, a tiny principality nestled into the French Riviera.
Immediately to the left of the casino complex is the Café de Paris, a popular spot for a drink and people-watching.
To the right is the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, an ornate hotel that opened around the same time as the casino, and is considered to be the finest in Monaco..
The Casino de Monte Carlo is a place to see and be seen. Once the casino opens its doors at 2pm, valets can be seen zipping in and out of Ferraris, Bentleys, and Rolls-Royces. This is Roland Ceccotti, head of valet parking and a doorman, who has worked at the casino for 25 years.
Let's step inside. Photography is strictly forbidden inside the casino, but Reuters photographer Eric Gaillard was offered a rare glimpse. Here, Sabine Lorand poses at the entrance desk, where she has worked for 10 years, selling entrance tickets that cost 10 euros ($14) each.
The casino welcomes thousands of visitors every year. Shorts and flip-flops are not allowed, and after 8pm, men must wear a sports jacket in the private gaming rooms.
The Casino de Monte Carlo has long been associated with James Bond. Its Beaux Arts architecture supposedly inspired novelist Ian Fleming's casino in his first Bond novel, 'Casino Royale.'
The casino and Monte Carlo were featured in the James Bond movies 'Never Say Never Again' and 'GoldenEye.' Here, barmen Damien Dellerba (L) and Sylvain Pastoret pose in front of their bar in the private rooms of the Salle Blanche.
Chantal Duhomme has worked at the casino for 25 years and is in charge of the cleaning of the slot machines. Hundreds of people work in the casino and behind the scenes to keep things meticulous.
Casino room manager Eric Ferrus, shown here in the Salle Medecin, has worked at the casino for 35 years and supervises all casino room employees.
Most rooms in the casino are accessible to the public, but some are reserved for known high-rollers. This is Serge Campailla, who has worked at the casino for 22 years, manning the entrance to the private lounges.
Signs in the Salle Medecin let gamblers know the minimum bets. While the casino is a huge moneymaker for Monaco, its citizens are barred from gambling there.
Gaillard was not allowed to photograph the casino's currency exchange room, but he watched as suitcases filled with chips and metal plates, the highest valued at $US276,400, were prepared. 'I was at a loss for words,' he wrote.
The casino stores 36,000 packs of cards in a special stock room kept at 20°C 'like fine, vintage wines,' Gaillard wrote. 'This is a zero-tolerance environment.' Pictured is Gilbert Luciano of Italy, who is in charge of casino cards and stocks. He has worked at the casino for almost 33 years.
Each of the casino's public and private rooms are lavishly decorated with paintings, sculptures, and heavy golden accents. Even the bar is a work of art.
The Casino de Monte Carlo offers a range of European and American games, including roulette, blackjack, and craps. Like any other casino, there are also rows and rows of slot machines.
In addition to gaming rooms, the casino complex houses a theatre and various restaurants. Chef Thierry Saez-Manzanares works at Train Bleu, an Italian restaurant near the entrance of the casino and overlooking the plaza.
The casino treats its high-rollers well. This is casino footman Eric Bezzo of Monaco, who has worked at the casino for more than two decades and takes care of clients playing baccarat.
Here, a croupier sets up plaques, worth up to $US274,380 each, in the private rooms of the Salle Blanche. At the roulette wheels, technicians check the level and balance of the wheels and inspect the white balls for defects on a daily basis, according to Gaillard. Dice are also carefully inspected.
The casino employs seven craftsmen, including a woodworker and a specialist in tapestry and embroidery, who construct and maintain the gambling tables.
When visitors are ready to cash out, they can exchange their chips with assistant cashier Gregory Francois, posing here in the Salle des Ameriques.
When things are slow, the parking valets rest in a small room called 'the morgue.' According to Gaillard, it was once used 'to hold the bodies of desperate gamblers, who lost their fortune and immediately killed themselves with a pistol shot, while still seated at the gaming tables.'
These days, the casino seems to be filled with more tourists gawking at the ornate architecture and fancy cars than serious gamblers.
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