THEY are features of cities around the world and in some hotspots can be key tourism draws, but it can be a surprise to learn that there are no casinos in Paris. Now plans are afoot to introduce blackjack to the French capital to boost visitors.

Why are there no casinos?

Casino gambling has historically been outlawed in the city of love and light, dating back through the centuries. Napoleon himself - although a fan of blackjack and a gamble himself - ordered gaming establishments to be located far from cities, for reasons of morality, to help protect the destitute from temptation.

And so?

Early decrees banished casinos to coastal resorts and spa towns, favoured by the wealthy. In 1920, the French government legislated officially that no casinos could be formed within 100km of Paris.

Interest remained, though?

Paris institution Club Pierre Charron notes that after the Second World War, gaming picked up in popularity once more and at the end of the 1900s, there were a good fifteen gaming ‘circles’ in Paris, where fans could participate in traditional table games and games against the bank, but casino games based on pure chance, such as blackjack, roulette and slot machines, remained prohibited.

And so?

Card fans though the years have enjoyed playing the likes of ‘Baccarat Chemin de Fer’ - the game James Bond plays in the movies Dr No, Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and GoldenEye, where players bet against each other, not the house. But in gaming ‘circles’ rather than at casinos.

What about blackjack?

The origin of blackjack is still debated, although the most popular notion is that it originated in French casinos around 1700 due to its reference in the novel Don Quixote. Then, the game was referred to as 'Vingt-et-un' - which translates to 21 in French. But blackjack has been banned in Paris due to the regulations.


It looks set to be played in the city as the government, led by President Emmanuel Macron, endeavours to draw in wealthy tourists and capitalise on a casino tourism, the likes of which sees more than 32 million people a year visit Las Vegas.

The lack of blackjack has been an issue?

Although gambling has been severely legally curtailed, criminals have used this to their advantage over the years as it went underground, but five years ago, a number of gaming clubs were allowed to open in Paris, offering 12 games including three card poker and stud poker - but not blackjack, slot machines or roulette. Their absence, Le Parisien reports, has proved a setback with tourists keen to play what they know. A source told The Times that “when foreigners turn up and say they want to play, you have to say you have got games that resemble blackjack, but aren to blackjack, and they go away again”.


Blackjack is one of a number of new so called 'matching' games to debut at the gaming clubs, according to a decree published on Tuesday in Paris. The gaming industry hope legislation of blackjack will encourage more wealthy tourists to visit and they are also campaigning to introduce roulette to the clubs in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Le Parisien says it is "good news for players in the sector”.