When it comes to gambling and the lifestyle we associate with the activity, most of us will think of the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip, glamorous outfits and mountains of poker chips. But is the reality really quite so flashy? Can we truly rely on TV representations of gambling when it comes to partaking in our own experiences? While we advise reading through something like Ladbroke’s beginners guide to casinos if you’re planning on visiting one yourself, we’ve also decided to take a closer look into how gambling is represented in TV shows and how accurate it might truly be.
Las Vegas (2003-2008)
Of all of the shows set in sin city itself, Las Vegas is possible the one that is most worthy of attention. Gary Scott Thompson’s take on a drama set in Las Vegas with a title of the same name was a surprising one in the sense that it was not only good, but it also lasted the longest on TV than many of its predecessors. Ed Deline – played by James Caan – is a former CIA operative turned boss of the Montecito casino. He plays alongside Josh Duhamel who plays his apprentice, who ultimately comes to take Deline’s place as boss of the casino in the final series. The series follows Ed Deline and Danny McCoy (his apprentice) as they work on the surveillance team at the casino, looking for cheaters, hosting and protecting high profile guests, and dealing with those who win too much personally. It’s a fast paced drama that unfortunately became weaker in its final season.
Vegas was a period drama set in the city of the same name, specifically in the 60’s Las Vegas. Originally, Nicholas Pileggi – the co-creator for the series – had wanted to make this idea a movie, but after struggling to make it into the traditional three-act form of a feature length movie, it was suggested that Vegas become a long-form TV show instead. Starring Dennis Quaid as Sherriff Ralph Lamb and Michael Chiklis as Vincent Savino, the series follows the Sherriff through his dealings with Chicago Mobster Savino who had moved to the west to set up his own operation in the Las Vegas gambling industry. This portrayal of gambling – and in particular Las Vegas – sets the whole situation up as being corrupt, or at least easy to corrupt with the right knowledge. Of course, every industry had its risks, but it’s important to take these kinds of shows with a pinch of salt – after all, they are just shows!
The American drama TV series Luck was created by David Milch and aired on HBO. Starring Dustin Hoffman as Chester “Ace” Bernstein, the series premiered on January 29 2012, after the first episode had aired on December 11th 2011 as a preview. The series seemed so popular that it was immediately renewed, for 2013, but due to concerns for animal safety, it was cancelled on March 14th 2012. The series follows Bernstein after he is released from prison and begins to plot his revenge on the associates that had had him arrested in the first place. With the help of Gus, his trusted bodyguard and driver who also acts as a front for his race horse investment, Ace attempts to reverse the bad fortunes of a famous racetrack, with mixed results. This show in particular takes a different approach to gambling, focusing on horse racing as a medium. Like Vegas it offers a more corrupt view on gambling and horse racing – and with its animal safety concerns it can even go as far as putting people off of the idea completely.
For the sake of a story and a worthy show, gambling and Las Vegas are often blown out of proportion. The corrupt, overly glamorous view of it all needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, and plenty of research is key when it comes to involving ourselves in the same world depicted so widely in TV.