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An Early Bank-breaker

By April 4, 2021No Comments

Long before opening his famous casino in Monte Carlo, François Blanc ran a similar enterprise in Bad Homburg, Germany.  Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a nephew of the Emperor Napoleon, won large sums there in the early 1850s.

The following account is translated from the German website

Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a nephew of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a nephew of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

“Lucien Charles Napoleon was not a dainty character.  His portrait reveals a surprising similarity to the great Corsican [Napoleon].  Perhaps his passion for gambling was the result of some genealogical inheritance.  He was one of the biggest and most feared gamblers of his time.  Bad Homburg was his battlefield.  According to the account of Count Corti he first appeared at the Casino on 26 September 1852.  Bull-necked, with blazing eyes, he sat with a pile of gold coins before him, his widely outstretched arms resting on the gaming table.  He only ever played the maximum stakes.  In the three days leading up to 29 September he had won 180,000 francs – a critical loss for the Bank, whose total cash reserves amounted to just 300,000 francs.  On this day the bank ran out of money and play had to be prematurely suspended.

The situation of the bank became tricky.  Trittler, the director, went to Frankfurt and offered Rothschild 400 shares in the Casino company for 200,000 Guilders.  Rothschild was cautious.  He demanded a guarantee from casino owner François Blanc, who was staying in Paris.  There were delays.  The Bank recovered, however, because there were subsequently enough players who lost money.  The Prince had not made an appearance. When he did reappear, on 2 October, he played with the highest stakes, and up to 10.00 p.m. had nothing but losses.  The Casino directors breathed again.  But suddenly his luck changed.  In a short time the Prince had won 560,000 francs.  But the Bank was ready.

The next morning the directors called a meeting and the shareholders were called in.  A decision was made that the maximum stake would be reduced from 4,000 to 2,000 francs.  This was a breach of the statute, but the Bank had to fend for itself.  There was an application to the local government for permission for a second zero to be added to the wheel.  But then came a telegram from François Blanc in Paris who placed 1,200,000 francs at the disposal of the casino and ordered that play should recommence.

On the same morning came the news that the Prince had left.  The directors and shareholders dared to smile again.  Nevertheless, Blanc’s offer had to be taken up because the available capital had shrunk to 59,000 francs.

After fourteen days the loss was made up although in this half-year instead of the usual dividend of 72 francs per share, only 37 were paid.

For a long time the Homburg Casino was grateful to the Prince.  In Paris peace returned with the enthronement of the nephew as Napoleon III.  As peace returned, there was time once more for conversation and for travel.  Bad Homburg, where the Prince had encountered such good fortune, became a meeting point for all of Parisian society.  François Blanc had achieved his goal.”

As in the case of Charles Wells, who won vast sums at François Blanc’s subsequent casino in Monte Carlo almost 40 years later, news of the colossal wins spread far and wide, tempting others to try their luck, too.  Most of them simply lost money, and the casino quickly re-filled its coffers.

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