L’Atrium du Casino de Monte-Carlo

 

A magnificent vestibule with 28 marble columns and exclusive cocktail venue, steeped in the history and mythology of the Monte-Carlo Casino.

The first Casino was built with a small room on the site of the Atrium (or lobby) with a wooden platform on which an orchestra of 15 musicians could perform.
The orchestra, composed of musicians hired as early as 1856 to enliven the days at the gambling establishment, had already acquired a certain reputation. Its recital at the Théâtre Royal in Nice in 1858 made a great impression. In 1859 it became the official orchestra of the “Cercle des Etrangers”. On stage, a few comedies and operettas by Offenbach also provided evening entertainment for the first foreigners who came to the Principality after a travelling experience that was often quite eventful.

The Salle des Pas-Perdus was built in 1878 by Jules-Laurent Dutrou, a French architect who drew up the plans for the Palais de l’Industrie in Paris. It then stood slightly further back than the present-day entrance. It has since provided a magnificent vestibule with 28 Ionic columns in marble, supporting a balustraded gallery which is lit by remarkable bronze candelabras.

The engraved glass in the ceiling provided by the Maison Bitterlin and chosen by Marie Blanc who supervised the decoration in person, provides feeble lighting for the two large panels in the gallery. They were produced in 1878 by the Alsatian artist Gustave Adolphe Jundt (born June 21st, 1830, in Strasbourg – died May 14th, 1884, in Paris). Jundt was renowned for his works full of poetry but small in size, works painted on an easel (genre paintings and landscapes). His work was exhibited at the “Salon de Paris” from 1857 to 1882, and he won medals in 1868 and 1873. He was also awarded the Legion of Honour in 1880.

Charles Garnier nevertheless showed no hesitation in entrusting him with a large-format decorative piece, despite his being more used to painting landscapes of northern regions where cold, damp nights leave a cottony cloak in the mornings on the surface of the earth, than Mediterranean scenery. The artist who painted after Nature thus waited for the moment when the sun was about to disappear. The picturesque cut-out of Menton and the “red rocks” seen through the branches of tall olive-trees with their gnarled truncks serve as a backcloth for olive-picking on Cap-Martin, with charming girls in costumes that are hardly Mediterranean. They remind us much more of girls in Alsace with whom the painter was familiar. This canvas was lit by electricity as early as 1879.
The second painting, “La Pêche à Monaco”, is a view of the Principality towards Cap d’Ail and Nice.
In 1889, a bar was installed in the round part of the Atrium, behind which the tinkling of slot-machine* tokens was heard for the first time in Monte-Carlo, in December, 1931.

* Games of pure chance which came from the USA, slot machines or “one-armed bandits” began their reign in casinos. Until 1895, slot machines in American gaming rooms remained in their early phase ; for minimum stakes of 1 or 5 cents, they gave their ration of hope. In that particular year, a young Bavarian immigrant placed his skill as a handyman at the service of a machine : the “Liberty Bell” came into being. Its inventor was Charles Fey. He started out by renting his machine to the clandestine gambling parlours of San Francisco before offering it to the world. The machine enables fans to play alone and pays out their winnings. It was an instant success.

In 1979, the slot machines were moved and installed to the left as one enters the Casino. The new room for automatic games was opened on July 12th, 1990, replacing the old cloakrooms at the entrance to the Casino. It contained 89 slot machines. Closed for a while, it reopened in October, 2006, with the ticket acceptor system, tokens at 1€ and tokenisation at 0.25 €. Terminology has become increasingly Americanized with Anglicisms such as : slot machine, jackpots, American roulette… The style of the “new world” has crept in everywhere.

The casinos’ outstanding collection of slot machines now totals more than 1,000 which all benefit from meticulous maintenance and the constant introduction of new models.