Blackjack and craps are now authorized in Paris. That’s Paris France, the City of Light, not Paris Las Vegas, where such things have not only been authorized but positively encouraged for decades.
Last week, the French capital’s seven gaming clubs got the go-ahead for the new games, along with bingo and sic bo, the dice game wildly popular in Asia. The directive comes as the Macron government is eager to attract wealthy tourists to the city’s gaming tables, reports The Times of London.
In 2017, authorities opted to license a number of heavily regulated and exclusive members-only gaming clubs, along the lines of the traditional London model. This was to replace the troubled cercles de jeux, which had previously provided Parisians with their gambling fix since casinos were banned in the city 110 years earlier.
A 1907 law prohibited casinos from operating within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of Paris, largely exiling gaming operators to seaside resorts.
The cercles sprang up in Paris soon after the casino prohibition. These establishments somehow managed to designate themselves, amusingly, as “non-profit organizations,” dedicated to promoting “social, artistic, literary and sporting activities.”
After World War II, the French government allowed groups of Corsicans to run the cercles in thanks for their services to the French Resistance. But many of the clubs soon became associated with the Corsican Mafia.
In the 1970s, bloody feuds erupted between rival Corsican gangs for control of the cercles. This was followed by a period of calm that led people to believe the clubs had cleaned up their act.
Not so. In 2011, three cercles were closed down permanently as a result of criminal activity: Le Cercle Wagram, Le Cercle Haussman, and L’Eldo.
Cercle Wagram’s owner, Jean-Angelo Guazzelli, was sentenced to three years in prison for using the club as a money-laundering front for the Corsican Mafia.
Over the next few years, two more, the Aviation Club de France and the Cercle Cadet, were forced to close after police raids.
Gaming Club Experiment
The new gaming clubs were part of an “experiment” to replace the cercles with a more stringently regulated model. The games on offer were relatively limited. These included poker, punto banco, roulette-style game multicolore, local blackjack variant game Poker21, and the old-school French gambling game écarté. Slots remain off the menu.
But now, French authorities have noticed that foreigners, Asians and Middle Easterners in particular, tend to spend the most at the gaming tables, and most of them don’t know the rules to écarté. They believe the new games will boost the amount of foreign money flowing into government coffers.
Meanwhile, the gaming clubs are campaigning for the legalization of roulette tables in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics, when the city will be awash with tourists with cash to flash.
“Blackjack is extremely popular. It is an offering that was really missing,” Richard Frischer, boss of the Punto Club, told Le Monde. “But what all clubs have in their sights is roulette.”
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