Casinos Have a Strong Place in Our Culture – 2020 Review

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Casino gambling is exciting, edgy and has long been a part of our culture. It is a way for players to take a chance and to possibly win a life-changing amount of money in just a few seconds time.

A Little History

The first casinos in Europe were founded in the 17th century in Italy, although there is strong evidence that games of chance date back to ancient China, Rome and Greece. In ancient Egypt, evidence of games involving dice have been discovered when authorities were digging up ancient artifacts.

Many can argue that gambling itself dates as far back as the Paleolithic era and you can trace its routes through history through classic works of literature, including the Bible.

It’s safe to say that, no matter where gambling began, it is a part of human nature and so the inevitable invention of grand halls dedicated to the glory of gambling emerged.

Casinos Hit the Books

In more recent times, casinos have been featured in many prominent books and films and they are a major part of our culture.

Perhaps the most recognizable writer of all time, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in his short novel titled ‘The Gambler’ is the clearest example of the casino connection.  The novel follows the life of a man in the 19th century and his life adventures that revolve around his obsession, success, and failure at the roulette wheel.

And we would be remise if we didn’t mention Ben Mezrich’s book ‘Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Million’.  This epic tale, based on a true story, takes place at the Blackjack tables and highlights the mathematical prowess of students who had trained themselves to count cards.  ‘A Beautiful Mind’ has nothing on this book, later turned into the movie ‘21’.

Going to Hollywood

Some of the most popular and highly-regarded films of all time take place or around casinos. In “Casablanca”, Humphrey Bogart played Rick Blaine, the owner of Rick’s Café Americain where casino gambling is an open secret. The fact that he owned and ran a casino gave Bogart an heir of toughness, daring and danger even before he spoke a word in the film.

In “The Godfather, Part II,” part of the plot revolves around Michael Corleone’s attempts to open a new casino in Las Vegas, which was then a small town in the middle of the desert rather than the major resort city it has since become.

Behind the scenes, negotiations and Congressional hearings surrounding Al Pacino’s request for a casino license add to the film’s depiction of power, wealth, and influence.

The 1988 classic “Rain Man” won the Oscar for Best Picture as well as Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman’s character was able to help his brother, played by Tom Cruise, to win a lot of money at blackjack because of his outstanding ability to count cards. Cruise’s character was able to win more than $86,000 in one evening to immediately erase his debts and help him reunite with his girlfriend. The scenes in the casino are exciting and life-changing, just like any trip to a casino can be, whether in person or online.

Another classic film involving casinos is “Ocean’s 11.” The original was released in 1960 and featured members of the “Rat Pack” like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. The remake came in 2001 and featured an all-star cast including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, and Julia Roberts. Several sequels were produced including one released in 2018 with an all-female cast.

The fact that the film revolves around a casino operator and gambling adds to the excitement and glamour of the film and of course, big bucks are at stake.

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What About Music?

You don’t have to look far and wide to find an example of today’s professional gambling athletes and their inexplicable dependence on music.  One need look no further than the televised World Poker tournament to find waves of new school talent sporting earbuds and bringing their game face to the table to keep their focus and make the biggest dent.

Casinos have long had a history with music and musicians as well.  Touching on everyone from country’s own Kenny Rogers in his classic hit ‘The Gambler’, to Ray Charles and the ballad know as ‘Blackjack’, and who can forget what it feels like to rock out with a little ‘Ace of Spades’ by the infamous Motorhead.

Hell, what would a classic collection of Elvis’ greatest hits even be without ‘Viva Las Vegas’? One might even go so far as to connect ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ with the theme that resonates in the heart of every true gambler.

Conclusion

It may not be as clear if one looks through rose-colored glasses at the world, but if you come at the subject with textbook and eyes wide open it is as plain as the nose on the average face. Casinos have effected more of our culture than we realize. From the flashy lights to the neon signs, from the glamorous showgirls (which, by the way, harken back to Zigfield and his Follies girls) to the musical residencies that you can’t find anywhere else.

There’s just no denying the allure and, one might go so far as to say, the magic that transports you to the world living inside our own world… the world called the casino. For this writer, I can’t wait to see what comes next.  Hold your breath world, as we reinvent, don’t be surprised to see casino culture moving in more and more.

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