After Goodfellas established itself as an iconic crime drama, Martin Scorsese took a chance and adapted a nonfiction book by Nicholas Pileggi about the mob and its casino empire. The result was Casino, a more focused and linear story that managed to capture some of the same thrills and enigmas as the earlier film. De Niro and Pesci both won Oscars, completing their collaboration with a movie that doesn’t shy away from violence or profanity but also focuses on the corrupting underbelly of modern gambling.
Casino is a reminder of how casinos trick otherwise rational people into throwing hundreds or even thousands of dollars away on the literal roll of the dice and spin of the wheel. The houses always win, but it’s easy to lose sight of that fact when you walk into a casino and are assaulted by lights and sounds and physical design that make it hard to step away from the table or slot machine.
It’s a place that’s designed to lead you into spending money you don’t have, from the lighting that tricks your eyes to the way the floor and ceiling look like daytime when it’s really night time. The ambiance is a trap, but it doesn’t stop the addicts, who may spend hours at a machine in a trance-like state and not even know what time it is or how much they’ve spent. The opulent inducements casinos offer to big bettors include free spectacular entertainment, luxurious rooms and even transportation.