Casinos and gambling have long been a subject of fascination for Hollywood and the film industry.
Whether as a backdrop to action and adventure, like in the modern Bond classic Casino Royale, or fundamental to the story, as in great heist movies like Ocean’s Eleven or Rain Man, casino depictions on film have come to shape how most people think about gambling at land-based casinos.
Of course, the land-based casino setting provides for a more alluring backdrop than, say, your typical online casino – it’s hard to work the latter into any film convincingly. But are land-based casinos actually shown in a realistic way, or does artistic licence triumph over the facts?
As with most things in Hollywood, it can be difficult to sift the facts from the fiction. Here are some of the main ways Hollywood gets it right, alongside some of the more obvious conflicts with casino gambling in the real world.
Glamour & Luxury
Pretty much every movie depiction of a casino you can think of draws on the element of glamour and luxury. The soft jazz in the background, the suited and booted croupiers, and the general tenor of the clientele all go some way towards giving the impression that the casino is an exclusive place to be. This usually helps build the sophistication of the central characters, or serves as a backdrop for their elaborate scam or heist.
In reality, this is reasonably accurate, depending on the specific casino in question. Of course, many casinos do employ dress codes, enforced with varying degrees of strictness and pedantry. Many are luxurious in their interiors, and it is hallmark of casinos that most players expect to find, especially on the gaming floor.
In some respects, this romanticised image of casinos can be daunting to new or inexperienced players. Luckily, in reality, most casinos are more welcoming to new or inexperienced players. Provided you’re not out to make a nuisance of yourself, and you’re generally respectful to staff and other patrons, there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t feel welcome in a casino. Depending on where you’re intending to play, it will probably be luxurious – but not necessarily quite as elitist as the depictions you’ve seen on film.
Every Hand is a Monster Hand
OK, so this one is probably a lot less realistic. When you see depictions of players at the poker table, it’s usually leading up to an almighty showdown. So much is on the line during these hands, the croupiers are even starting to get nervous.
There’s a scene in particular in Casino Royale that springs to mind, where Bond and his adversary are preparing to show their hands. Of course, both have managed the statistically improbable and ended up with killer hands, adding to the excruciating tension as the game plays out.
Of course, there are monster hands all the time in poker. But in reality, showdowns of this magnitude shouldn’t be expected on every hand. It’s unlikely that either of the players in Casino Royale would have made it through the hand without going all in, which would have altered the action significantly.
You can probably forgive the element of Hollywood here – it’s out to make the most action packed, thrilling films possible, and this kind of poker play invariably hits the mark. Just don’t expect every hand to play out like this – in reality, if you’re playing well, your casino poker table will be more marathon than sprint, and much less likely to pan out in the style of James Bond.
Violent Pit Bosses & The Mafia
Another common theme depicted in films is that of violence, and a criminal underworld running throughout casinos. The rogue who is out to scam the casino often trembles more at the thought of physical retribution from the oversized pit bosses and security team than at the thought of a police investigation. This stems from historical links spanning hundreds of years, where gambling operators tended to be unsavoury characters.
Today this couldn’t be further from the truth. The management will still be incredibly unhappy with anyone trying to swindle their way into stealing their money, but it’s far more likely you’ll be immediately asked to leave and reported to the authorities, than ‘roughed up’. As with the other exaggerations, the threat of a severe beating for crossing the casino management makes for good storylines and plot twists – certainly more so than a much less exciting, protracted criminal investigation.
In reality, those that do try and cheat casinos end up on trial and in jail, to face up to the implications of their crimes. Much less exciting than the Hollywood portrayal, but much closer to the truth too.
Film depictions of casinos are intentionally exaggerated, all in the name of making for the most exciting, action-packed scenes possible. In reality, casinos are an exciting place to be if you enjoy the games, and while the experience may be a little more relaxed than you might think, it can still make for an unforgettable night out.
Of course nowadays, most gamblers don’t head out to their local casino to get a slice of the action. With online and mobile casino gaming now just a few clicks away, you can play from home around the clock, without the need to don your best suit and tie.