How gambling movies have changed through the years

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Movies are a relatively integral part of our lives. There are many movies with storylines developed on true stories. As a result, they have the power to influence viewers in some way. Gambling isn’t a new thing in the film industry.  Many films have gambling themes that portray what millions of gamblers worldwide experience in pursuit of fun and money.

Just as is the case with other movie genres, gambling movies evoke emotions in the audience. Some are a thrill to watch, while others can shoot up your adrenaline and leave your heart racing. Overall, the best movies may, to some extent, give you the drive to start engaging in some form of gambling.

The Evolution of Gambling Movies

Generally, gambling has a long history. Many legal battles have been fought worldwide in the past between pro-gambling and anti-gambling crusaders. Gambling was largely regarded as a game for the bad boys and was outlawed in many jurisdictions. But the restrictions only birthed organized crime run by mafias in states like Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, also known as the Gambling Capital of the World, has an intriguing history as far as gaming is concerned. No wonder the setting of most casino movies is in Las Vegas. Hollywood, a household name in the global entertainment industry, has released several gambling movies set in Vegas.

Due to restrictions on gambling, gaming enthusiasts would play underground poker. They would also play other casino games like roulette, baccarat, and blackjack in secrecy. And that’s why you will realize some of the first gambling movies from Hollywood and other theatres involved characters playing in underground places.

Themes for Casino Movies

Gambling movies come with diverse themes. Here are the most common themes you will find in the films:

Gambling Addiction

Tons of gambling movies paint a picture of a compulsive gambler. Many of the movies take you through the struggles the gambler experiences in real life due to gambling addiction. On the one hand, the movies have a tragic end where the victim perishes or suffers devastating effects. This is a common trend in the movies produced in the olden days. On the other hand, many modern movies have a happy ending with the victim getting over the compulsion. This is a clear attempt to portray gambling in good light.

 Organized Crime

Several movies build a strong correlation between gambling and organized crime, whether based on true stories or fiction. This stereotype is common in most casino movies released in the past when gambling was restricted in most jurisdictions worldwide. But things have changed, thanks to the worldwide relaxation of the restrictions as countries began warming to the idea of legalizing casino gaming, sports betting, and other forms of gambling. And so, casino movies with this theme have significantly declined in recent times.

High Roller’s Game

Olden days gambling movies depict the game as a preserve for those with huge bankrolls. They showcase gambling as a trendy activity fashioned for the rich in society. And this is largely attributed to a lack of enough casinos to accommodate large numbers of betting fans. So, land-based casinos would give priority to players with bigger bankrolls.

However, the advent of the internet brought a groundbreaking twist to the global gambling industry. Today, you can access countless casino sites right from the comfort of your home and play poker and other casino games. Besides, the casinos accept players with varied financial capacities, with varying minimum starting amounts with welcome bonuses, such as a 5 or 10 euro no deposit bonus. Therefore, you can still play your favourite title and win big even if you have a leaner financial muscle.

Some Popular Gambling Movies

Here is a list of blockbuster movies with casino scenes that have been widely acclaimed in different parts of the world.

The Gambler (1947)

Written by James Toback, The Gambler is a fascinating American drama film starring James Caan, Lauren Hutton, and Paul Sorvino. Of the three protagonists, Caan blew away audiences worldwide. The movie also features, among other characters, an English professor called Axel Freed.

The professor has a gambling addiction that plunges him into colossal debt. He got $44, 000 from his mother and went on a gambling spree in Las Vegas accompanied by Billie. At first, he made a fortune and got carried away. He was full of hope. But much to his disappointment, lady luck refrained from smiling at him. Long story short, he blew the money on gambling.

Owning Mahowny (2003)

This Canadian film is based on a true story and is about problem gambling, also known as a gambling addiction. The movie, written by Maurice Chauvet, revolves around Dan Mahowny, a bank employee in Toronto. Mahowny stars as Philip Seymour Hoffman.

His addiction pushes him to secretly siphon large sums of money from a bank branch where he worked as an assistant manager. He would then tour Atlantic City weekly to spend the loot on gambling. In the story, we see how gambling addiction affects his life. This is certainly the gambling movie to watch and learn a thing or two on how compulsive gambling can take a toll on your life.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Written by Ted Griffin, Ocean’s Eleven is a comedy movie starring George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and Andy Garcia. In the story, Clooney and Pitt hatch up a heist involving millions of dollars from Garcia, a casino owner.

Molly’s Game (2017)

This is yet another American crime drama movie. It was written by Aaron Sorkin, who doubles up as the director. This poker movie is based on a true story and is centered on Molly Bloom who runs an underground poker business that gets the FBI involved. Molly Bloom runs high-stakes poker games. In the end, she would be arrested, prosecuted for illegal gambling, and imprisoned after pleading guilty to the charges. 

Casino (1995)

Casino is an American movie produced by Barbara De Fina. It is based on a book titled Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. The movie stars Sharon Stone, Kevin Pollak, Robert De Niro, Don Rickles, James Woods, and Joe Pesci. The story is about De Niro, a gambling pro who was approached by a Chicago Mafia to manage the Tangiers Casino. His managerial skills helped increase the casino’s profit two-fold.

Uncut Gems (2019)

This crime movie stars Adam Sandler (he features as Howard), Kevin Garnett, Eric Bogosian, Lakeith Stanfield, and Julia Fox. Howard is battling a gambling addiction with little success. And it bears adverse effects on his life that his world begins to crumble. He heavily owes to the extent of attracting incessant visits by debt collectors. The film was widely acclaimed and even registered success when it comes to Box office.

Casino Royale

This espionage film was produced in 2006 and is part of the James Bond series. It stars Daniel Craig, who played the role of James Bond. The movie was written by Robert Wade, Neil Purvis, and Paul Haggis. The game involved is poker, and the movie received criticism owing to its departure from the usual cliché and sparkle synonymous with James Bond films. Surprisingly, it would later become a Box office hit.

Final thoughts

Gambling movies have come a long way, thanks to, among other factors, the continued legalization of betting activities. While great movies in the distant past would paint a creepy picture of the industry, most modern movies are taking the opposite trajectory. Indeed, you can responsibly partake in gambling activities for fun without affecting your real life.

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