Casino du Liban, the 18th most successful casino in the world.
Located on the most beautiful location in the Bay of Jounieh, the Casino du Liban is one of the most luxurious casinos and the most famous tourist attraction in the Middle East and in the world. On its stairs lay the red carpets for kings and heads of state. From his stage, the most important international artistic groups appeared, and the huge celebrations that occupied the international press were organized in its flanks. Contrary to the normal casino concept known all over the world, Casino du Liban played a unique role as it combined entertainment, tourism and culture, which is the combination of tourism and culture at the same time.
In the fifties and sixties of the last century, Lebanon witnessed a period of prosperity and economic prosperity, which was boosted by the important tourist imports that came from the gambling games that were active in summer centers and some hotels in the capital, and these games were prohibited in the neighboring Arab countries. During the era of the late President Camille Chamoun, a law was issued in 1954 to limit gambling games to Casino du Liban exclusively, as the legislator wanted to benefit from gambling as a tourism and economic pillar, He canceled the “permissions” that were in effect in the regions and restricted the right to invest in gambling games in one club, with the aim of restricting revenues and limiting the spread of these games in every street in Lebanon. The tender was awarded to Victor Moussa, Albert Manasseh, and Emile Kharrat, and a decree was issued to license the Casino du Liban company on July 29, 1957. About three years after the decree was issued, the beautiful casino building was built in the Maameltein area on a picturesque hill overlooking the Bay of Jounieh. The area of the casino was about 34 km2 and was inaugurated during the era of President Fouad Chehab (December 17, 1959) in a ceremony that was an unforgettable event.
After its opening, the casino quickly established itself as the first entertainment center in the Middle East. It witnessed a golden era, as it hosted the most famous international names, whether in relation to teams or artists, and attracted millions of tourists from all over the world. The planners of the casino worked to make it an upscale tourist complex. In addition to gymnasiums, it includes reception gardens, restaurants, and an ambassadors hall for major shows, which were considered one of the largest and most beautiful showrooms in the world. As for the casino theater, or “Teatro Lebanon”, it was comparable to the Opera Theater in Paris in terms of its breadth (1,350 spectators), its sophisticated equipment, its wood and its backstage.
In the early 1960s, Casino du Liban visited the biggest international show teams and presented their wonderful works in the “Ambassadors Lounge”, or on the Teatro stage. The reviews that were presented continued throughout the year, and in some years their number reached fifty international reviews in one year. Through these reviews, the casino attracted large numbers of art connoisseurs in neighboring countries and in the far world, as well as the Lebanese who met international teams and interacted with the high-end works of art they presented.
In the year 1961, a contract was signed with the international director, Charles Hanshs, who would perform in the Ambassadors Hall, the huge parades, and one of them (Mais Oui) showed 1158 times over a period of three years and three months, and 562,788 spectators watched it, and was considered the show of the era. The glory witnessed by the ambassadors’ lounge prompted the world press to talk about it, and one day the Egyptian Al-Ahram released pictures from the hall’s reviews on its front page, and demanded the Egyptian government to establish a similar hall to attract tourists.
In the same year, May Musa (Victor Musa’s wife) met with the US ambassador and told him about the active European participation in the casino activities, asking: Why don’t the Americans take similar steps? The ambassador suggested that she write a letter to President John F. Kennedy, and she did. Ten days later, the answer arrived: Kennedy sent two planes to Lebanon, the first carrying the most important Broadway performing artist (Helen Hayes) and her band, and the second carrying the band’s decorations and costumes … This is one of many stories from the glory days of the Casino du Liban that stood on its greatest stage International artists, from Gilbert Picot to Jacques Brill, Julio Iglesias, Adamo, Dalida, Johnny Holiday and many others.
Fayrouz and the Rahbani brothers appeared on the casino stage in the operetta “The Night and the Candle” (1964). On the same stage, the “Al-Anwar” folkloric group performed its performances, including Tahia Carioca, Najwa Fouad, Samia Jamal, and concerts by Farid Al-Atrash and others.
Subtlety and beauty … and red carpet
The casino management managed to kidnap the Miss Europe election matches and organize it in Lebanon for five consecutive years (1960-1965), and it was the first time that this match was held outside Europe. The credit goes to the spouses Victor and Mai Musa, who convinced the president of the French election committee of the importance of organizing this event in Lebanon, because the goddess Europe is the daughter of the king of Tire …
Victor Moussa’s plan was clever and shrewd, as he knew that 30 female candidates would represent 30 European countries, and that each girl must be accompanied by no less than ten journalists, that is, a total of 300 journalists who provided their international newspapers with daily reports on the casino, and thus he benefited from Free ads have included the casino and Lebanon in the world tourism map. The panel of judges included journalists, actors and writers, among them the writer Jean Bruce, who was famous for his police writings and wrote a book that takes place at the Casino of Lebanon. During those five years, one million lines were written about Lebanon in the international press. After that, the casino organized the elections for Miss Lebanon and then Miss Universe in 1971.
In addition, red carpets were laid at the entrances to the casino and among the most prominent figures that visited him were US President Lyndon Johnson, the late Jordanian monarch King Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, Prince Albert de Monaco and the actor Omar Sharif.
An economic and development role
In the sixties and seventies of the last century, the casino played a remarkable developmental and economic role, and during this period it generated important revenues for the state, part of it and the company another part. Thanks to the revenues it achieved, the casino provided job opportunities, in addition to financing many projects that contributed to the rise and prosperity of the tourism sector. In this context, Prince Amin’s Palace and Jeita Cave were rehabilitated. In addition, a restaurant was established in the Citadel of Tripoli, in addition to the opening of dozens of tourist offices in Paris, London and Rome. In addition, 20 percent of the casino proceeds were allocated to help small municipalities in their urban and development projects, and a similar percentage was allocated to the Ministry of Social Affairs to support charitable societies.
Conditions changed with the outbreak of the war in 1975, and the glory days were over. However, the casino continued to operate intermittently and kept making profits that benefited from the de facto forces. According to 1977 statistics, 161,000 people entered the casino halls and spent 31 million and a half million liras. During the period between 1971 and 1983, the company was able to purchase a quarter of the shares of Casino de Madrid. Between 1989 and 1990, the war returned to ravage what was left of the casino. It was devastated and the halls were permanently suspended, while casinos spread in Beirut and other Lebanese regions.
According to the aforementioned agreement, the casino reopened during the reign of the late President Elias Harway (December 4, 1996). The international and local press wrote about this event, for which an English newspaper devoted four columns on its front page, and said, “The symbol of Lebanon’s golden age has reopened its doors. Wiping the effects of 15 years of civil war cost 30 million pounds sterling. ” After its restoration and creation of new sections in it commensurate with its pride and in line with the specifications of the most prominent casinos in Europe, the casino in its new look seemed to be a bright beacon. And to the activity that the multi-game halls equipped with advanced technologies and luxurious restaurants are witnessing, international and local shows returned to the theater and the ambassadors’ lounge.
In 2004 the casino was ranked 18th in the list of the 100 most successful and dynamic casinos in the world. According to the World Federation of Casinos, the casino has achieved many achievements, the most prominent of which is the increase in its profits and the reception of the most important international exhibition teams.