Lebanese Casino: The Show Must Go On
Lebanon cabarets and casinos are acting as oasises for the war weary, as they stay open amid the crisis ravaging the country. From the upscale Casino du Liban to the seedy bars on the tip of the Bay of Junieh, it seems one motto resounds: "The show must go on".
However, the opening hours have been pushed back, and the establishments close as early as 1:00 instead of the usual 5:00 am. At dawn on Friday, an Israeli missile gouged craters in a road bridge near the casino.
"Everybody is feeling down. There is no life. You call this life?" said a cashier, referring to an almost empty room full of slot machines and flashing lights. "Normally you can't walk through here, the crowd is so thick."
One out of three gaming rooms is operating, for patrons of roulette and blackjack. Suits are for hire for guests who don't turn up in the proper attire.
The private rooms are closed, and the cashier explains why. "The high rollers were the first to leave the country," she explained. The summer show, complete with dancing girls, has been cancelled.
"Who knows what will happen tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow we will have no petrol, no mobiles, maybe we will be back on donkeys," a young hostess said. "And if Iran and Syria become involved, then it's game over."
The casino has kept going against the odds since it opened in 1959. The only time it closed was when it sustained damages during the inter-Christian battles in 1989.
The casino had a grand re-opening in 1996 after a complete renovation. "The legend of Casino du Liban has dazzled and attracted millions of guests from all over the world," the casino boasts on its website.