The film, television, and gambling industries are among the world’s most lucrative. It is no wonder, then, that the paths of these three industries often cross. If you’re a slot enthusiast, then you have most likely seen several slot machines inspired by popular movies and TV shows. In the same way, a good number of films and TV shows have gambling as a huge part of the setting or even the plot itself. Here we will take a closer look at the relationship between these industries.
TV- and Movie-themed Slots
Slots are perhaps the most popular casino games ever. Even today, when more and more people are choosing to go online instead of visiting a brick-and-mortar casino, slots are still a favorite among gambling site visitors. And one of the best things about slot machines is that they carry a wide variety of themes, so you’ll be sure to find one that suits your taste.
One of the reasons for the success of slot games is that game developers sign deals with rights owners of the world’s most popular movies and TV shows, and then create games featuring those films and TV shows. These slots give the films’ and shows’ fans a chance to interact with the characters and relive their favorite scenes even years after the films were shown and the shows ended.
Regardless of what industry a business is in, it is important to advertise that business in order to achieve success. Businesses that fail to give enough effort and investment in advertising often fail to achieve the level of success they are aiming for. Note that those who don’t advertise are giving their competitors the chance to get ahead of them and most of the time, businesses who do not advertise don’t really stay in business for long.
When film and TV show franchises are used as themes for slot games, the franchise is effectively advertised, such that any future projects belonging to the same franchise are instantly recognisable and are almost sure of attaining success. At the same time, when certain gambling products and activities are featured in movies and TV shows, they are getting some needed exposure. Some viewers might even become curious enough about the featured betting product to give it a try.
Top Casino/Gambling Films
If you are both a film buff and a casino enthusiasts, you’ll be sure to enjoy the following films, which effectively combine the two giant industries of gambling and film.
1. The Cooler
This romantic drama from writer/director Wayne Kramer was released in 2003. It tells the story of Bernie Lootz, who was so unlucky at gambling that he already owed the Shangri-la Casino more than $100,000. He was, in fact, so unlucky that the casino even hired him as a “cooler”, a gambler tasked to play alongside high rollers, with the aim of getting some of his bad luck to rub off on them and keep them from winning.
Bernie has almost paid off his debt from working as a cooler when he met cocktail waitress Natalie Belisario and fell in love. As he did, his luck began to change and he started winning in the casino. This is where the movie’s climax begins, because mob boss Shelly Kaplow wasn’t just going to sit and watch Bernie go from casino jinx to lucky player in a snap.
Set in New York’s high-stakes underground poker world, this movie was released in 1998. It tells the story of Mike McDermott, a young, reformed gambler. He traded poker for law school and for a chance at a new life with his girlfriend. The seemingly legit road to success that he has found will be challenged, however, when his friend is released from prison. He will have to return to the high stakes to help his friend fend off loan sharks, while struggling to maintain the ideal life he has with his girlfriend.
This film by Martin Scorsese features a story of crime and punishment, exposing the inner workings of a corrupt Las Vegas casino. It tells the story of three characters: Bookmaking wizard Ace Rothstein, Mafia underboss Nicky Santoro, and prostitute Ginger McKenna. Ace plays by Vegas rules, but Nicky and Ginger have made a habit of lying, cheating, and stealing their way to the top.
The first half of the film shows the three characters’ rise to the top, while the second half tracks their downfall. The action shows the FBI, corrupt government officials, and angry mob bosses pick them apart.
This rated-R action movie was released in 2005. It tells the story of gambler and conman Jake Green. He ran with a bad crowd, which led him to spend seven years in jail. Upon his release, he started using a formula he learned from two mysterious inmates to become unbeatable at the tables. After some time, he felt ready to exact vengeance on the man responsible for landing him in jail, Dorothy Macha. It is in this quest for revenge that Jake gets involved in the most dangerous game he has ever played.
Set in London’s world of gambling, this film was released in 2000. It tells the story of aspiring writer Jack Manfred. When he suffered from writer’s block, he took a job as a croupier to support himself. He soon got swallowed deep into the world of cards, despite trying to remain a professional outsider. In time, he realized that his life as a croupier, with all the dangers and temptations he is exposed to, actually makes for a great novel.
6. Leaving Las Vegas
This romantic drama was released in 1995. It tells the story of Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything to alcoholism. Ben arrived in Las Vegas, determined to drink himself to death. It is there that he meets prostitute Sera and forms an uneasy friendship with her. The two also form a non-interference pact, vowing not to try to change one another.
This funny and heartfelt movie was released in 1996, and was responsible for turning Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau into legitimate stars. It tells the story of five guys in their 20s, all trying to cope with the mysteries of life and women. Mike left his girlfriend in New York in hopes of making it big as a Hollywood actor. What he found instead is loneliness.
After a few months of seeing Mike down in the dumps, his friend Trent and the other swingers decide to take matters into their own hands and try to bring Mike back to life. The story is told in the language of what was known as “cocktail nation”, a retro-Swing dance movement that took Hollywood by storm at the time.
8. Hard Eight
An outstanding debut for Paul Thomas Anderson, this engaging feature film was released in 1996. It tells the story of an out-of-luck gambler named John, who meets suave professional gambler Sydney and learns the trick of the trade from him. Sydney offers to share all of his gambling secrets with John in Reno, and everything went well until John fell for the cocktail waitress Clemetine. This was when Sydney realizes John is a loose cannon who may never learn how to restrain himself the way Sydney does.
9. Casino Jack
Based on a fascinating true story, this fictionalized version was released in 2010. It tells the story of a man determined to enjoy everything that the good life has to offer. He frequents places where the high-rollers like to spend time, and isn’t afraid to con, scheme, and defraud his way to getting exactly what he wants. The fictional film may seem over-the-top, but even the true story that inspired it is too incredible for anyone to ever think of, even in the wildest of dreams.
This is the story of Jack Abramoff and his business partner, Michael Scanlon. The action reaches its peak when they involve a mob-connected friend in their illegal schemes. They soon find themselves in over their heads, deep in the mafia world of murder and scandal.
A film that pays homage to the underworld legend, Bugsy was released in 1991. It tells the story of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, who arrived in California in the 1940s, with the job of overseeing the L.A. rackets. He is soon seduced by the actress Virginia Hill and the glamour of Hollywood itself. But things really got interesting when he had a vision of transforming a barren strip of Nevada desert into a haven for enthusiasts of gambling and entertainment. This is the story of how Las Vegas was born.
Top Casino/Gambling TV Shows
The TV industry has its own share of gambling-inspired offerings. Here are some of the best TV shows that feature gambling as an integral part of the storyline:
1. Las Vegas
This hit ensemble drama aired from 2003 to 2008. It told the story of the personal and work lives of employees at the Montecito Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. In particular, it focuses on the security-surveillance team. The action is fast-paced and as flashy as the glitzy casino setting.
2. Sneaky Pete
This exciting crime drama aired from 2015 until June of this year. It told the story of a con man who had just been released from prison. With a vicious gangster on his heels for unpaid debts, the con man took cover by assuming his cellmate’s identity. As Pete, he took a job in his faux family’s bail-bond business, consequently falling into a world that just might be as dangerous as the one he is trying to escape.
3. Stan Lee’s Lucky Man
This British crime drama series aired from 2016 to 2018. It told the story of a brilliant but flawed London cop. Murder Squad detective Harry Clayton was battling gambling addiction when he was suddenly given an ancient bracelet after spending a night with mysterious Eve. He soon discovered that the bracelet gave him the power to control luck, at which point he started using it to his advantage.
4. The Player
This crime drama aired in 2015. It told the story of former intelligence and FBI officer Alex Kane, who now works as a security expert in Las Vegas. He encounters an elite gambling organization called the House and got recruited after his wife is murdered. He works to solve crimes while members of the House place bets on whether he will succeed in preventing certain crimes.
This TV series aired from 1978 to 1981. It told the story of Dan Tanna, a Vietnam veteran now working as a private investigator in Las Vegas. It shows both the seedy and the glamorous sides of Las Vegas and is notable for being the only TV show that portrayed a house with a “drive-in” living room.
Eras collide in this TV show that ran for one season from 2012 to 2013. Set in 1960s Las Vegas, the show told the story of Army MP-turned-cattle rancher-turned-sherriff Ralph Lamb. He struggles to take control of the burgeoning Vegas crime scene, at the center of which is the mob boss of the Savoy Casino, Vincent Savino.
Explore the world of high finance in this show that first aired in 2016 and has recently been renewed for a fifth season. The show tells the story of savvy U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades who is in a constant battle with hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod. This fictional series is loosely based on the real-life legal battles between former U.S. Attorney for the New York Southern District Preet Bharara and hedge fund manager Steve Cohen.
8. Breaking Vegas
Aired in May 2004, this special TV documentary tells the story of a group of MIT students who formed a blackjack team and attempted to get rich at casino tables throughout the United States. They employed Math techniques to win millions at the gambling tables in the 1990s. The documentary also showed casinos attempting to thwart the team’s plans.
9. Poker After Dark
Having debuted in 2007, this TV program has had an interesting run on air. It was cancelled in 2011, following a scandal that involved its major sponsor. It was revived in 2012, airing old episodes as well as unaired episodes from its 7th season. In 2017, this time hosted by PokerGO the show started airing fresh episodes.
10. High Stakes Poker
This televised poker cash game first aired in 2006 and ran until May 2011. It showed top poker players competing in no limit Texas hold ‘em. The competition, however, was not a tournament, and players played with their own money and had the option to buy in again.
The relationship between film, TV, and gambling is one thing that likely will not be broken anytime soon, if at all. For as long as these three industries continue to rake in the big bucks, they are likely to continue taking advantage of each other’s strengths. People will continue to see movies and TV shows that feature gambling, as well as casino slots with movie- and TV-inspired themes.