No one can watch these men for any length of time, without perceiving that the nervous strain they undergo is very great; and, as a matter of fact, they have to be relieved every two hours. Every day, Sunday included, from noon until midnight, these gambling-halls are crowded. Everything is quiet and orderly; no voice is heard above an undertone; and almost the only sounds are the chink of the gold and silver coins, and the monotonous words of the croupiers. In fact, were it not for the intense suppressed excitement at these tables the place would be depressingly dull. Accordingly, one who cares nothing for the game, and who is not interested in studying the phases of humanity at the tables, soon gladly leaves the halls, either to walk about the lovely garden or to listen to one of the finest orchestras in Europe.
At Monte Carlo.
The only thing that can be said in favor of the gambling is that it is honestly conducted, no cheating being possible for either the bank or the players. Indeed, when any one has been exceptionally fortunate and has won a large sum of money, two or more guardians of the Casino usually accompany him to his hotel; for, several years ago, a foreigner was murdered here soon after leaving the gambling-hall, and since then the authorities have been on the alert to prevent the repetition of a crime which, by destroying public confidence, would do them an incalculable injury.
Until the introduction of electricity, oil lamps were preferred to gas in the Casino; for, some years since, a clever trick was played here by a band of rogues, one of whom turned off the gas at the meter, while his confederates took advantage of the darkness and confusion to grab whatever money was on the tables, and even to rob the players.
In some cases the authorities give a bankrupt player money enough to pay his fare home. This is, however, regarded as a loan, and must be paid before the recipient of the money can ever again enter the Casino. It is said that over two hundred thousand dollars are annually advanced in this way to gamblers who have been left utterly destitute.
The profits of this business must be enormous, for after subsidizing the Prince, relieving his subjects from taxation, and paying its own large staff of employees, from members of its famous orchestra to its croupiers and gardeners, the Syndicate is reputed to gain about one million, six hundred thousand dollars annually.
The bank of Monte Carlo always has a percentage in its favor; but it makes its greatest gains because of the almost universal rule that if a man wins he will play on till he loses. A story is told of a man who in a few hours won here eighty thousand dollars. The croupier reported the loss to the proprietor, Monsieur Blanc, who only smiled, and sent a servant to the gentleman's hotel to see if he had gone. When he returned and reported that the man was still there, Monsieur Blanc laughed softly, and said: "Tres bien!" And in fact, that night the man returned and lost, not only his eighty thousand dollars, but ten thousand more which he had borrowed.
These richly decorated halls are never empty during gaming hours. Around every table there is always a close circle of seated players, behind whom usually stand as many more, reaching over their shoulders to play.
Among those who lose the largest sums here are Russians, who have the reputation of playing recklessly. The French, principally Parisians, contribute largely to the crowd at the tables. Germans play considerably, but so cautiously that they are considered the least remunerative customers of the bank. Spaniards and Italians are comparatively few in number here; while, on the other hand, Americans outnumber the English, notwithstanding the proximity of Great Britain. Curiously enough, fully one half of the players are women of all ages and conditions of life. These do not seem to be able to preserve the equanimity usually characteristic of the gambler. Once, for example, when I had placed several small sums unsuccessfully on the color which an old lady beside me had also chosen, she turned to me very impatiently, and said that I was spoiling her luck.
In The Casino, Monte Carlo.
It is a significant fact that the only people in the world who are deprived of the pleasure, or misery, of playing at roulette are the inhabitants of Monaco; for the Prince forbids his own subjects to enter the gambling-halls.