Casinos and Their Place in Pop Culture

by Staff

However popular online casinos have become today, the origins of gambling can be traced way back to ancient civilizations.

And the history of casinos shows they have always been part of the culture and mood of the times.

The concept of a dedicated gambling establishment began to emerge among the idle rich in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Ridotto in Venice, established in 1638, is considered one of the earliest casinos. It was a government-sanctioned gambling house where both nobles and commoners could have fun playing games.

And the establishment of the Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco in 1863 by the Grimaldi family was a crucial step in the image of casinos.

The idea was disapproved of by the establishment but became a symbol of luxury and glamour. With opera premiers and fine cuisine, the casino soon attracted wealthy and famous people from across the globe.

Similarly the growth of Las Vegas as a gambling destination in the 20th century can be attributed the legalization of gambling in Nevada in 1931. It also followed the construction of iconic resorts, like the Flamingo, opened by mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in 1946.

It didn’t stop visitors though. The City of Sin became a destination synonymous with wild fun and indulgence.

And the second half of the 20th century saw the rise of mega-casino resorts that combined gambling facilities with lavish accommodation, entertainment, shopping and restaurants. South Africa’s Sun City became one of the most famous entertainment resorts in the world.

Casinos spread worldwide and Macau even surpassed Vegas as the world’s largest gambling hub. Gambling is still a major part of Chinese culture.

Finally, the advent of the internet revolutionized the gambling industry. Online casinos allowed players to enjoy games from the comfort of their homes, with various slots providers offering slot games, and generic casino providers offering a range of casino games available at the touch of a button.

And today’s land-based casinos still offer lots of games, like slots, blackjack and roulette, poker rooms, and sportsbooks. They have broadened their appeal to feature entertainment shows, fine dining and spas.

During this evolution casinos have become iconic within various forms of media around the world. Here are some examples of how casinos have left their mark on culture.

Plenty of films have used the drama and glamour of casinos

Obvious examples include Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and its sequels, featuring a cast led by George Clooney. They showcased intricate heists set in Las Vegas casinos.

Likewise, Casino (1995) was directed by Martin Scorsese and provided a gritty portrayal of the Las Vegas gambling scene.

And famously, the James Bond franchise often uses casino scenes, such as in “Casino Royale” (2006). It’s always a powerful way to add style, tension and fantasy to the story.

Casinos have prominently featured in TV shows too

An American series simply called Las Vegas (2003-2008) revolved around the daily operations of a fictional casino on the Vegas Strip.

The hit drama Breaking Bad (2008-2013) had memorable casino scenes too, including Walter White’s tense poker game in season two.

And in Friends (1994-2004), Joey briefly works as a blackjack dealer in a casino.

The world of casinos has also inspired numerous songs

In fact, the first-ever worldwide hit was The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. Englishman Charles Coborn enjoyed success around the globe with the song about a spectacular win at Monte Carlo in 1891.

Much more recently Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley was a tribute to the excitement of the city’s casinos, while Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler imparts life lessons through gambling metaphors.

Lady Gaga’s hit Poker Face references the world of gambling, with lyrics that play on the theme of hiding emotions during a high-stakes game.

The Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice and Steely Dan’s Do It Again both deal with the idea of taking chances – and the allure of gambling.


Casinos have often been used as captivating settings in novels

Ian Fleming’s James Bond books often include casino scenes, such as the iconic baccarat game in Casino Royale.

In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, the protagonist famously immerses himself in the chaotic atmosphere of Vegas casinos.

Several reality TV shows focused on casinos too

The World Series of Poker and High Stakes Poker followed professional players competing for large prizes. And Pawn Stars centered around a Vegas pawn shop.

The gaming industry has also explored casinos through video games

Grand Theft Auto for example, often includes fictional casinos where players can gamble virtual currency.

There are numerous examples to illustrate how casinos have become ingrained in popular culture. The gambling venues have captured the imagination of artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians.

Whatever you think of casinos, their portrayal in all forms of media has only helped solidify their iconic status – and contribute to their allure!

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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