Traditionally featuring beautiful interiors and thrilling action, the casino is the ideal scene-setter for filmmakers. For generations, directors, writers and producers have driven their plot via the card table, with some even using the casino as the setting for the climactic scene.
But why do those in the film industry favour the casino as part of their creative process? Let’s the role of the casino in modern cinema, while also examining how the industry has changed during the last 30 years, and how the relationship may evolve in the years to come.
The state of modern casino gaming
Of course, the modern casino experience can be enjoyed digitally as well as in the luxurious gaming settings often depicted in films. A big slice of gambling culture now lives online and all kinds of players enjoy the games.
Many who are used to gaming in physical casinos have discovered the delights of online play, while others who’ve never even stepped foot in a real casino have found a new route into the industry, which is great news for the industry at large. Staples like poker and blackjack are played by millions around the world, while online roulette provides a faithful portrayal of the game that’s captivated audiences in casinos around the world for generations. But has this trend been reflected in film?
Immortalized in film
The most common portrayals of gambling are focused on the traditional, almost stereotypical, casino. The setting is luxurious, with decadent interior decorations, and populated by men in tuxedo suits and women in glamorous dresses. This kind of setting provides the perfect backdrop for all kinds of stories, including action thrillers and modern comedy capers. Perhaps the most common depiction is the James Bond series of films, where the titular leading man is often found chancing his arm at the card table.
But the broader casino theme endures much further. 2009 comedy classic The Hangover is set in Las Vegas, while the 2009 film ‘21’ takes its name from the number all players strive to reach in a game of blackjack. Understandably, the setting is perfect for filmmaking. The environment can capture the feeling of excitement, or even cautiousness as someone bets it all in their attempt to win big.
The future of casino in cinema
As we have discussed, the majority of the depictions of casino in film have been focused around the traditional casino, but as the industry evolves, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that online casino settings will be featured in films.
We have already seen the rise of eSports as a pop culture phenomenon and ultimately many film-makers are in the business of telling stories that either capture the imagination, or are relatable for the audience. With the arrival of live streaming, which can be seen in roulette too, is it possible that we may see more films based on virtual encounters? In 2020, the release of the film Host happened in a Zoom meeting within a single one-hour session. What is stopping filmmakers from doing the other things, like with eSports or casinos?
For these reasons, we expect to see new forms of entertainment, like online casino gaming, feature in future movies. Depicting an environment that is as captivating and exciting as a traditional casino will be the major challenge, but it’s surely an opportunity that studios will realise.