by Blake Carey

Casinos offer the perfect setting for sensory experiences that captivate diverse audiences. Their architectural grandeur often leaves viewers in awe.

A casino’s floor presents diverse characters and emotions. Unsurprisingly, many Hollywood producers use casinos as the backdrop for a wide range of cinematic narratives.

In the past, casinos were primarily depicted as settings for suspenseful scenes with stakes as high as the gambling tables themselves. However, there has been a noticeable shift towards a more comedic approach. Here are how casinos in films have changed over the years.

Growth Over the Years

The casino world is not what it used to be. It has undergone significant transformations throughout history. It has gone from small gambling houses to sprawling entertainment complexes and online casinos.

In the 19th century, the United States saw the emergence of gambling houses in frontier towns. These casinos were far from the luxurious resorts we know today, featuring rudimentary games like poker and roulette. They were associated with lawlessness and were an integral part of the Western frontier culture.

The mid-20th century brought a dramatic shift in the casino industry with the rise of Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the world. The opening of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in 1946 by Bugsy Siegel marked the beginning of a new era.

Las Vegas transformed into a haven for entertainment, offering gambling and top-notch shows, fine dining, and luxurious accommodations.

The 1990s saw a technological revolution that profoundly impacted casinos. Electronic table games and video slot machines revolutionized the industry. They made gambling more accessible and appealing to a wider audience.

The Rise of Online Casinos

The internet brought another significant transformation. Online casinos emerged, allowing you to enjoy the best online pokies from the comfort of your homes. This shift in the industry’s landscape gave rise to a new generation of gamblers. These players prefer virtual experiences to traditional brick-and-mortar casinos.

The casino industry continues to evolve rapidly. The adoption of digital currencies, AR, and innovative games are trends shaping the future of casinos. Additionally, the industry is becoming more eco-conscious, with a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency.

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Early Days: The Golden Age for Hollywood

In the early years of cinema, the portrayal of casinos was often glamorous and extravagant. The allure of casinos as a backdrop for storytelling was evident in movies like Casablanca (1942).

The iconic Rick’s Café Américain was the setting for high-stakes gambling and espionage.

These films highlighted the elegance and sophistication associated with casinos. The characters dressed in sharp tuxedos and glamorous evening gowns. Such depictions were a form of escapism during the trying times of the World Wars. They also helped cement the image of casinos as places of allure and mystique.

The 1950s and 1960s: A Shady Underworld

As cinema evolved, so did the portrayal of casinos. The 1950s and 1960s saw a shift towards a darker, more sinister depiction of casinos. Movies like Ocean’s 11 (1960) and The Cincinnati Kid (1965) highlighted the underground world of gambling.

The characters engaged in elaborate heists and poker face-offs. This period marked the beginning of casino-related films focusing on the thrill of heists and scams. The allure of the casino was now intertwined with a sense of danger and intrigue.

The 1970s: Shift to Realism

In the 1970s, filmmakers began to explore a more realistic and gritty portrayal of casinos. Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995) is a prime example. It depicts the inner workings of the mob-controlled Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas.

This film highlighted the corruption, violence, and personal relationships behind the scenes. It is a stark contrast to the glamorous exterior.

The 1970s marked a turning point where casinos were no longer just glamorous settings. They were also symbols of moral decay and corruption. This portrayal mirrored the changing public perception of casinos as they became synonymous with crime in reality.

The 1980s: High-Stakes Drama

The 1980s brought about a resurgence of the high-stakes drama genre, with movies like Rounders (1998). These films explored the intellectual aspects of gambling.

It focused on characters with exceptional blackjack skills. But it also incorporated humour for entertainment reasons. Rounders highlighted the psychology of gambling and the complex relationships that develop around it. This era marked a shift from casinos solely being a backdrop for action to becoming a central character in the story itself.

The 1990s and 2000s: A Blend of Glamour and Realism

The late 20th century and early 21st century saw a blend of glamour and realism in casino-themed films. The Ocean’s series (2001-2007) rebooted the casino heist genre. It merged star-studded casts with high-tech heists and intricate plots.

These films celebrated the charm of casinos while emphasising the brains behind the operations. Meanwhile, 21 (2008) examined the world of card counting in blackjack. It brought to light the thrill and danger of exploiting the odds.

This period showcased a balance between the glitz and the grit, demonstrating that casinos were not just based on chance but also strategy and wit.

The Present: Focus on Diversity

Recently, the portrayal of casinos in films has become more diverse and inclusive. Molly’s Game (2017) tells the true story of Molly Bloom, a woman who organised high-stakes poker games for celebrities and billionaires.

This film not only explores the world of underground gambling but also the empowerment of a strong female protagonist. It symbolises a shift from the male-dominated casino narratives of the past.

Additionally, the emergence of online casinos and virtual gambling in real life has started to influence the portrayal of casinos in movies.

The 2020 film The Card Counter explores the psychological consequences of a professional gambler’s past, drawing on the modern gambling landscape. It reflects how technology has transformed the way people gamble, moving beyond the physical confines of a casino.

In conclusion, the evolution of casinos in films is a reflection of the changing times and attitudes towards gambling. From the glamour of the Golden Age to the high-stakes drama of recent years, casino-themed movies have continually adapted to captivate audiences.

As technology and societal views on gambling continue to evolve, we can expect to see even more diverse and engaging stories set in the captivating world of online casinos.