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by Basil Nestor

Basil Nestor is author of "The Smarter Bet Guide to Craps," "The Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack," and other comprehensive gambling guides. Got a question? Visit and drop him a line.

"Bond, James Bond…" The first time agent 007 spoke those words on screen, way back in 1962, he was gambling in a European casino. Playing in Europe conjures exotic images… London, Paris, Athens, Monte Carlo. It can be a lot of fun, but casinos in Europe are different in some ways compared to U.S. casinos. It pays to know the differences before you sit down and play.

For example, I just returned from Greece where I visited two casinos near Athens, Mont Parnes and Casino Loutraki. The first thing you notice is…

Size Matters

Mont Parnes is very small, and that’s typical for a European casino, about 700 slot machines and less than 80 tables. The property is just north of Athens at the summit of the tallest mountain in Attica, appropriately named Parnes. Driving there is a picturesque trek up winding roads, or you can take a cable car up the mountain; it offers a breathtaking view.

The second thing you notice when you walk into Parnes is that you can’t just walk in. Only members of the players club are admitted, so you must join the club and pay an entrance fee of 6 Euros. The application seems only slightly less complicated than applying for a loan. They want your name, address, phone, e-mail, and date of birth, along with a scan of your passport. Then you have to stand for a photo. It’s unnerving, but obligatory.

Once you’re inside, the phrase "boutique casino" comes to mind. If you’re accustomed to soaring spaces like Wynn, Bellagio, or Venetian… well… Parnes has none of that. It’s charming, but small. The slots are pure-American transplants with nothing different except that all the units are in Euros rather than dollars. There are no Greek audio prompts or Greek letters in the art. All the standard games are there, Double Diamond, Pharaohs Gold, and so forth. Video poker is almost non-existent. Mont Parnes has exactly one video poker machine, literally in a corner. The game is jacks or better 6/5, which is an awful contest, returning only about 95%.

Ahhh… but who needs slots and video poker when there is blackjack, right?

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that blackjack...

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