What Made the Movie Casino so Popular?

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Released in 1995 and directed by the brilliant Martin Scorsese, Casino was a blockbuster movie that seemed to resonate with millions of people wherever it was screened around the world. The movie, based loosely on real characters and real events, starred Robert de Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein and Joe Pesci as the role of Nicky Santoro. Both of these central characters, representing different values and motives, are based on real-life people. In the case of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, De Niro plays a character based on Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a Chicago bookie recruited by the Chicago mob to be the respectable and legitimate face of their Las Vegas operation. This included running iconic Las Vegas casinos such as the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina casinos on behalf of the Chicago mob.

When the Wheels Come Off

As with most things, the wheels eventually come off and things start to go wrong. In Rothstein’s case it started going wrong when he met Ginger, a high end call girl played by Sharon Stone. Ginger is loyal to her pimp, Lester Diamond, played by James Woods but Rothstein doesn’t care and does whatever it takes to get her to marry him. She ultimately creates havoc in his life, deals drugs in his casino, steals money from him to give to Lester and enough drama to distract Rothstein from doing what the mob put him there to do in the first place.

His second mistake comes in the form of his old mob enforcer pal Nicky Santoro, played brilliantly by Joe Pesci and based on real-life enforcer Anthony Spilotro. Santoro is sent to Vegas by the mob to keep an eye on their interests which includes Rothstein. However, he has his own ideas and forms a crew to rob and steal all over Vegas. Eventually the mob grew tired of his shenanigans and, both he and his brother are ‘wacked’. All in all things go very wrong for all involved and there isn’t a single character that comes out a winner. In fact, the movie’s opening scene sees De Niro being blown up in a car bomb hit, something that would become a legendary opening scene among fans.

Why We Love this Movie

Many people from the UK love gambling and Las Vegas. There are hundreds of casino sites in the UK. You can find a list at and see for yourself. There’s a reason why everyone loves mob movies. The mob, for all their evils, existed outside the law and didn’t follow the rules. They got things done that they needed to get done and, like it or not, success is always attractive. The same can be said for Las Vegas as well, at least the Las Vegas of the 60’s, 70’s, and part of the 80’s. Vegas was the Wild West, where anything went and most folks could get away with just about anything.

The old saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” comes from those times where you literally went to Vegas to do all the naughty things you couldn’t get away with at home. In Las Vegas there is no day or night and normal rules don’t apply. If lady luck smiles on you, you can leave the city a millionaire, just by taking a chance or two. Ultimately, it is the fantasy of what Vegas and the casinos represent, and what was so stunningly portrayed in the movie Casino that keeps generation after generation that watch it, inspired to dream.

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The Author

Jim Napier

Jim Napier

Movie watcher. Physical media collector. Pizza lover. Bipolar/Anxiety. Animal advocate. Co-founder of