These are difficult times in Lebanon. Still, the country has seen much political and military upheaval over the years, and its capital city, Beirut, retains a reputation as a liberal and fun place, as suggested by its long-time nickname, the “Paris of the North.” For gamblers, it offers a haven of opportunity in an area not well endowed with gaming facilities. Indeed, Lebanon’s only mainland casino, the largest in all the Middle East, continues to attract gamblers despite the troubles.
The Casino du Liban (Lebanon Casino) is located in a Christian area about 14 miles north of Beirut, called Jounieh, and it has been an institution in that city since 1959. It has a turbulent history, trading throughout most of the civil war, though it ceased operations in 1989 for seven years. It reopened in 1996 after a $50 million dollar refurbishment. The largest and one of the grandest casinos in the entire Middle East, it boasts an amazing 300,000 square feet of gaming and entertainment.
In normal times, it offers gamblers 400 slot machines and an astonishing 57 gaming tables, in three rooms, the International, the Mediterranean, and the Cercle D’or. These offer American Roulette on 26 tables, Blackjack on 15 tables, Caribbean Stud Poker on 9 tables, and Punto Banco and Stud Poker on 7 tables. There are six restaurants for when the gambling gets too much – three serving French cuisine, evoking Lebanon’s historical links with France, two international restaurants, and one, La Terrasse, serving local food. The opening hours are normally 8 pm to 4 am, seven days a week.
The recent emergency in Lebanon meant alterations to the Lebanon casino, but it did not close. The opening hours were curtailed to 1 am, and only one of the three gaming rooms was open. The private gaming rooms were unused as the wealthiest gamblers left the city and country. Yet, with the easing of tensions recently, the casino is returning to normal, and once again is offering the best in gambling and entertainment facilities.
In peaceful times, there is one other Lebanon casino, though it is not located on the land. The Abou Merhi Cruise ship, the Orient Queen, is normally located in Beirut (from where it begins and finishes cruises). On board, it offers 32 slot machines and five gaming tables, as well as the other facilities you would expect from a modern cruise liner. The games played are Blackjack, Poker, and Roulette.