You stride into a casino brimming with confidence, your wallet full of cash and plans for a little enjoyable gaming and perhaps two rounds of cocktails. But a few hours later, you’re struggling to figure out what time it is and how much of your hard-earned money you’ve lost. It happens to almost everyone.
But why? And how can we, as people who work hard for our incomes and make reasoned financial decisions on a day-to-day basis, spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars in a flash of the lights, a spin of the wheel, or the pull of the cards? This is the dilemma that the movie Casino explores in an epic tale of greed, treachery and corruption.
Casino, which won an Academy Award for best picture in 1992 and was based on the investigative nonfiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, lays bare the web of corruption that centered around Las Vegas and had tentacles reaching into casinos, politicians, unions, mobs and the Teamsters. While there are no heroes in this story, the film is compelling viewing, not only for the drama of its characters but also because it offers a glimpse into a world that we would like to think is far removed from our own.
A casino’s business model is designed to ensure that the house will always win. The house edge, which represents the average gross profit a casino expects to make on each game, is built into the rules of every game offered. Casinos also use psychological tricks, including no clocks and a lack of windows to encourage you to lose track of your time, as well as scents and other stimuli to reinforce gambling behavior.