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Blockbusters That Helped The Casino Industry Boom

by THN

Hollywood comes out with hundreds of movies each year based on a wide range of themes. A lot of times, certain movies tend to have a positive or negative impact on a company, product or niche based on what is portrayed in these movies.

The casino industry can testify to this fact as there has been a clear co-relation in the growth and popularity of gambling while specific movies with a casino or a gambling theme made a hit at the box office. There are also quite a few movies that brought out the gambling bug in viewing audiences.

A recent example would be the movie 21 which is based on the infamous MIT blackjack team. This film inspired many blackjack enthusiasts to learn various card counting techniques.

Let’s look at some other movies that have contributed to boosting the popularity of gambling.

The Cincinnati Kid

Steve McQueen was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood when he took the role of Eric “The Kid” Stoner in 1965’s The Cincinnati Kid. The movie is filled with interesting sub-plots but the main story is about an aspiring poker player named Eric Stoner who dreams of being known as the best five-card stud player in the world. Of course, Eric has to beat the best in order to be considered the best and he finally gets his chance when poker master Lancey Howard comes to town.

Steve McQueen as his best

The film culminates with The Kid getting in deep in a high-stakes game involving Howard. Now, a feel-good movie would have Eric winning the final showdown but The Cincinnati Kid isn’t a feel-good film. Instead, Kid’s aces full of tens gets crushed along with his spirits when Howard reveals his straight flush. It’s not like this movie sparked a global poker fad but it did stir up plenty of interest.

The Cooler

In gambling terms, a ‘cooler’ is an unlucky person whose mere presence brings bad luck to those around him. There was nobody better suited for this role than William H. Macy who played Bernie Lootz in the film. Lootz, who is up to his knees in debt to Shelly Kaplow, the boss of the Shangri-La casino, takes a job in which he simply stands by casino patrons who are on hot streaks. Naturally, those hot streaks come to abrupt ends.

As the movie progresses, Lootz’s fortunes begin to change and he eventually becomes a good luck charm. Meanwhile, casino boss Shelly Kaplow sees a reversal of his fortunes. The Cooler offers an interesting take on gambling superstition and the lengths that casinos are willing to go to in order to gain an edge.

Casino software game developers often create slots games based on blockbusters as they know that there will always be a niche market for such movie themed games.

The Gambler

Starring James Caan and released in 1974, The Gambler follows the story of college professor and severe gambling addict Axel Freed. What separates this film from many other gambling-themed movies is that it is a rather dark story which portrays the sad realities of gambling as opposed to glorifying it. In the movie, Freed wins big but promptly loses it all. He then borrows as much money as he can from his girlfriend and mother along with usurious loan sharks.

The movie was remade in 2014 and starred Mark Wahlberg. While the character names and sub-plots differ, both versions convey the same warnings about the perils of gambling addiction.

Casino Royale

Not too many movies have captured the elegance and thrill of high-stakes Texas Hold’em poker quite like 2006’s Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig. Dressed to the nines, James Bond finds himself in a not-so-friendly high-stakes poker game with an insanely wealthy cast of characters which includes the villainous Le Chiffre who has been financing terrorists much to the chagrin of M16 and the rest of the free world.

In a showdown to end all showdowns, everyone at the table goes all in resulting in a massive $115 million pot. Le Chiffre’s hand beats everyone else’s except for Bond who is holding a straight flush. Of course, Le Chiffre is far from gracious in defeat and proceeds to do what all good villains do. He tortures poor ol’ James by repeatedly smashing his nether regions with a piece of knotted rope. Worry not, everything turns out the way it’s supposed to.


Rounders is widely regarded as one of the best gambling movies ever made. Released shortly before the poker boom, this film manages to tell a great story while depicting Texas Hold’em in a relatively realistic manner. The movie pays attention to the finer points of the game including tells and betting strategy. It even covers cheating although that didn’t work out well for Mike McDermott or Lester Murphy who were portrayed by Matt Damon and Ed Norton respectively.

One of the most memorable scenes comes toward the end of the film as Mike takes on John Malkovich’s Teddy KGB in a winner takes all heads-up match. Entertaining table talk, intuitive reads, and plenty of head games ensue as Mike claims victory and solves all of his problems. With “three stacks of high society”, Damon’s character leaves New York behind and heads to Las Vegas to pursue his dream of winning the WSOP.


Robert De Niro’s Sam “Ace” Rothstein is one of the best professional handicappers in the world while Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, is second to none when it comes to breaking legs and popping out eyeballs. Together, these two old friends help the mob tighten its stranglehold on Las Vegas. Ironically, they are both instrumental in the mob’s demise in Las Vegas. Woven within the romance, betrayal, and sheer violence, Casino offers some revealing insight into how Las Vegas casinos and the mob made boatloads of money between the late 1960s and the early 1980s.

Casino, which is perhaps Martin Scorsese’s crown jewel, was adapted from a true story. The movie gives a good description of how the mob protected their interests in Las Vegas while clearly illustrating the rampant corruption. Audiences also catch a glimpse of how casinos dealt with cheaters and other who didn’t play by the rules.

The interesting origins of the mob in Las Vegas is glossed over but the fall of the mob in Las Vegas is well chronicled in this epic. Casino runs just shy of three hours but it is a must see for any fan of casino gambling.

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