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Anyone on holiday in France is sure to be close to a casino. There are 148 casinos in France, though the places which merely offer the little game of boule - a poor man's roulette (edge against the player 11 per cent!) - hardly count.

The big trend in France is slot machines (machines a sous). No use lamenting the way wonderful palaces of gaming, as in the old Croisette in Cannes, have been degraded into slot parlours. That is what the public wants. And there is no doubt that if the restriction on the number and type of slot machines in British casinos was lifted, the public would flock to play them here too. The Home Office, in its munificence, is to allow the number of slot machines per casino to be increased from two to six.

The most successful casino in France is at Divonne (turnover Fr 325m), close to Geneva. It is a small, pretty town with an unostentatious casino (but don't try to go in wearing a leather jacket). Divonne's success is based on its proximity to the rich, tax-free international clientele in Geneva, a few minutes' drive over the border. But it is the casinos along the Cote d'Azur which span the glittering arc of French gambling.

Perhaps the most attractive is the Carlton at Cannes, on the top floor of the Carlton hotel. Apart from the gambling, the casino restaurant, La Belle Otero (named after a famous courtesan), merits, as they say, the detour. The gaming (at around eight francs to the pound) is fairly expensive: roulette minimum stakes in summer Fr 50 to Fr 10,000 maximum, punto banco minimum Fr 500 to 100,000 and blackjack Fr 100 to 100,000. (If you want to play higher, the management will no doubt be pleased to accommodate you.) The Carlton is small but elegant, and to dine there on a summer's night, watching the fireworks light up the bay, is one of the finest of pleasures.

Though Monte Carlo continues to cast its spell, its appeal these days is geared mainly to the charabanc trade. Only the high stakes super-prive, offering chemin de fer, retains a faint echo of the grand days of the Belle Epoch.

Spending on slot machines has risen in France to nearly Fr 4,000m last year. Chemin de fer, which was the gambling game of style, has dwindled in the same period to almost nothing. This is the way gaming is going. There is no danger of Britain following suit on slot machines. We already have our slots by another name. They are called instant scratch cards. The public is currently spending some pounds 40m a week playing them.

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