Casino (film)

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File:Casino poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Barbara De Fina
Screenplay by
Based on Casino 
by Nicholas Pileggi
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Edited by Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Syalis D.A.
  • Légende Entreprises
  • De Fina / Cappa
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 22, 1995 (1995-11-22)
Running time
178 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40–50 million[1]
Box office $116.1 million[2][3]

Casino is a 1995 American crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. It is based on the non-fiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas[4] by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Scorsese. The two previously collaborated on the hit film Goodfellas (1990).

The film marks the eighth collaboration between director Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, following Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Goodfellas (1990), and Cape Fear (1991).

In Casino, De Niro stars as Sam "Ace" Rothstein, a Jewish American top gambling handicapper who is called by the Italian Mob to oversee the day-to-day operations at the fictional Tangiers casino in Las Vegas. His character is based on Frank Rosenthal, who ran the Stardust, Fremont, and Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago Outfit from the 1970s until the early 1980s. Pesci plays Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro, based on real-life Mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro, a made man. Nicky is sent to Vegas to make sure that money from the Tangiers is skimmed off the top and the mobsters in Vegas are kept in line. Sharon Stone plays Ginger McKenna, Ace's scheming, self-absorbed wife, based on Geri McGee.

Casino was met with a mostly positive critical response and was a box office success, though not as successful as Goodfellas, a mafia film by Scorsese which also featured De Niro and Pesci. Stone's performance was unanimously praised, earning her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.


In 1973, Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is a sports handicapper and Mafia associate who is sent to Las Vegas to run the Teamsters Union-funded Tangiers Casino on behalf of the Chicago Outfit. He hires old friend Billy Sherbert (Don Rickles) as his manager. In between, Ace and his friend, mob enforcer and caporegime Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro (Joe Pesci), narrate how the mob bosses control the Teamsters Union, which gives out money for casinos that they own, such as The Tangiers, and how they also drive off rival crews and get rid of cheaters. Ace becomes the Tangiers' de facto boss by taking advantage of lax gaming laws allowing him to work at the casino while his gaming license is still pending. He doubles the casino's profits, which are skimmed by the Mob before the records are reported to income tax agencies. The bosses are impressed with Ace's work and send Nicky to protect Ace and the whole business, along with Nicky's brother Dominick, Nicky's friend and subordinate Frank Marino (Frank Vincent), and the rest of Nicky's soldiers in his crew. Nicky, however, becomes more of a liability than an asset; his criminal activities—which he makes nearly no effort to conceal—and his violent and vicious temper quickly get him banned by the gaming board from every casino, and his name is placed in the Black Book. In retaliation, Nicky gathers his own crew, opens a jewelry store and restaurant, begins running unsanctioned shakedowns and burglaries, and soon after is considered the mob boss of Vegas.

Ace, meanwhile, meets and falls in love with a hustler named Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone). Ace, desperately wanting to settle down in Las Vegas, proposes marriage and a family, but Ginger refuses. She changes her mind after Ace assures her that, even if it doesn't work out, he will make sure that she is taken care of for the rest of her life. They soon conceive a daughter (Amy) and marry. Their relationship begins to deteriorate when Ace and Nicky catch Ginger giving money to her former boyfriend Lester Diamond (James Woods), the man she actually loves and her pimp from her days as a prostitute and now a small-time con man. Ace also makes an enemy in Clark County Commissioner Pat Webb (L.Q. Jones) by firing Webb's brother-in-law Don Ward (John Bloom), the slots manager at the Tangiers for incompetence and refusing to reinstate him. Webb retaliates by pulling Ace's casino license application from the backlog and forcing him to have a license hearing in 1980, while secretly arranging for the gaming board and State Senator Harrison Roberts (Dick Smothers) to reject the license (in spite of Senator Roberts being a frequent and comped guest at the Tangiers). Ace responds by appearing on television and openly accusing the city government of corruption. The bosses are unappreciative of Ace's publicity and ask him to return home, but he refuses, stubbornly blaming Nicky's reckless lawbreaking for his own problems, which leads to a heated argument with Nicky in the desert.

The bosses soon notice that the amounts of the skim are getting lighter due to local mobsters taking some of it for themselves, so they appoint Kansas City underboss Artie Piscano to oversee the skim, but he keeps incriminating ledgers and is caught on an FBI bug discussing the skim. Ginger tries to file for a divorce, but Ace refuses, stating that he will not let her take Amy away from him due to her severe drug and alcohol problems, and she will likely spend all of her money within a year and come back to him anyway. Ace then finds out that Ginger is in Los Angeles with Lester and planning to run away to Europe with Amy. Ace calls back home for assistance and Nicky shows up, reminding him that business and family matters aren't the same thing. He asks Ginger to send Amy back and she asks if she can come as well. He agrees, but the moment they are alone starts to hammer her with what they spent his money on and accusing her of cheating on him with Lester. After she walks out, he buys her a beeper so he can keep a track of her.

Ginger turns to Nicky for help in getting her share of her and Ace's money from the bank, and they begin an affair, which Ace later finds out about. These actions violate Mob rules and could potentially get Ace, Nicky, and Ginger killed. Ace reaches his limit with Ginger when she ties Amy to her bed in order to have a night out with Nicky. Ace confronts Ginger in the restaurant for abusing Amy, and disowns her. Ginger turns to Nicky to have Ace killed, but he refuses due to their 30+ year friendship. She becomes enraged and attacks him, but he throws her out. Meanwhile, Sam has Billy arrive with a shotgun in case Ginger returns. The next morning, the hysterical Ginger, determined to retrieve her share of Ace's jewels, goes to the Rothstein house and creates a disturbance by rear ending Ace's car with her own, causing police to be dispatched to the scene. Ginger, escorted by an officer, uses the distraction to steal the key to the couple's bank deposit box (She is unable to retrieve any other valuables from the house due to Sam having Billy place the valuables in the casino vault the night before.). All of these events are occurring under FBI surveillance, having been alerted by Piscano's discussions heard by the bug. Ginger steals most of the cash from the safe deposit box and drives off, intending to run away to another city. Before she can escape, however, she is pulled over and arrested for aiding and abetting by the FBI undercover officers watching her. They arrest Ginger in hopes of using her as a witness against the Mob's activity.

Ginger says nothing to the police, but it doesn't matter; the FBI has collected enough evidence to arrest several casino executives involved with the skim. Philip Green (Kevin Pollak), the casino's front man and nominal main executive, decides to cooperate with the FBI. The FBI raid Piscano's home and find his ledgers, which detail every transaction of the skim. Piscano becomes so upset he suffers a heart attack and dies, right in front of his wife. The casino empire crumbles, and the bosses, including leader Remo Gaggi (Pasquale Cajano) are all arrested. Nicky, catching wind of the early arrests, flees Las Vegas and manages to evade capture. The FBI comes to see Ace with the pictures they took of Ginger with Nicky. Devastated, he refuses to look at the pictures as well as the agents, and he turns away.

During an after-trial meeting, the bosses decide to eliminate anyone involved in or with knowledge of the skim, in order to keep them from testifying, which includes some trusted associates. John Nance, the money courier, flees to Costa Rica, but the mob finds him after they learn his son got arrested for drug charges, so he will not turn state's evidence to save his kid, and eliminates him. They kill Teamsters Union president Andy Stone (Alan King). Although the bosses all agree that Stone will not talk, overboss Remo Gaggi decides not to take a chance. After fleeing with the $2 million in cash and her jewelry, Ginger found some bikers, junkies and hustlers in Los Angeles to hang out with. She is last seen walking heavily drugged alone down a hotel hallway before collapsing. Ace states that he had a second autopsy done by a private doctor and found she was given a "hot dose", a lethal combination of battery acid and drugs. All she had left was $3600 in mint condition coins. Ace, on the other hand, is almost killed in 1983, in a botched car bombing which was never authorized, but Ace and the bosses suspect it was Nicky. After being in hiding for a while, Nicky arranges a meeting with in an Indiana cornfield with his old gang under the guise of getting Dominick resettled in Vegas. However, they have other orders since once they arrive, Dominick is quickly and savagely beaten to death with baseball bats as Nicky pleads for his life. They then turn their bats on him, and throw him along with his lifeless brother into a hole in their underwear, with Nicky still breathing, as they full up the hole with dirt, burying him alive. Ace narrates that the bosses had "had enough of Nicky" and knew they had to make an example of him.

The Mob is knocked out of power as well as the Teamster's Union and the old casinos are purchased by big corporations and demolished to make way for gaudier gambling attractions financed by junk bonds. Ace laments that this new "family friendly" Las Vegas doesn't cater to the players as their predecessors did and that now "it looks like Disneyland", stating: "Back then dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played; today it's like checking into an airport. And if you order room service, you're lucky if you get it by Thursday". In the final scene, an older Ace is shown living in San Diego, once again as a sports handicapper for the Mob, or in his words, "...right back where I started". Ace closes the film with the words, "I could still pick winners, and I could still make money for all kinds of people back home. And why mess up a good thing? And that's that."




The research for Casino began when screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi read a 1980 report from the Las Vegas Sun about a domestic argument between Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, a casino figure, and his wife Geri McGee, a former topless dancer.[6] This gave him an idea to focus on a new book about the true story of mob infringement in Las Vegas during the 1970s, when filming of Goodfellas was coming to an end (the screenplay which he co-wrote with Scorsese).[7] The fictional Tangiers resort reflected the story of the Stardust Resort and Casino, which had been bought by Argent Corporation in 1974 using loans from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund. Argent was owned by Allen Glick, but the casino was believed to be controlled by various organized crime families from the Midwest. Over the next six years, Argent Corporation siphoned off between $7 and $15 million using rigged scales. When exposed by the FBI, this skimming operation was the largest ever exposed.[8] A number of organized crime figures were convicted as a result of the skimming.[citation needed]

Pileggi contacted Scorsese about taking the lead of the project, which became known as Casino.[6] Scorsese expressed interest, calling this an "idea of success, no limits".[9] Pileggi was keen to release the book and then concentrate on a film adaptation, but Scorsese encouraged him to "reverse the order".[10]

Scorsese and Pileggi collaborated on the script for five months, towards the end of 1994.[7] Real-life characters were reshaped, such as Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, Geri, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother. Some characters were combined, and parts of the story were set in Las Vegas instead of Chicago. A problem emerged when they were forced to refer to Chicago as "back home" and use the words "adapted from a true story" instead of "based on a true story".[9] They also decided to simplify the script, so that the character of Sam "Ace" Rothstein only worked at the Tangiers Casino, in order to show a glimpse of the trials involved in operating a Mafia-run casino hotel without overwhelming the audience.[9] According to Scorsese, the initial opening sequence was to feature the main character, Sam Rothstein, fighting with his estranged wife Ginger on the lawn of their house. The scene was too detailed, so they changed the sequence to show the explosion of Sam's car and his flying into the air before hovering over the flames in slow motion—like a soul about to go straight down to hell.[9]

Principal photography

Filming took place at night in the Riviera casino in Las Vegas, with the nearby defunct Landmark Hotel as the entrance, to replicate the fictional Tangiers. According to the producer Barbara De Fina, there was no point in building a set if the cost were the same to use a real-life one.[9] The opening scene, with Sam's car exploding, was shot three times; the third take was used for the film.[9] When first submitted to the MPAA, the film received an NC-17 rating due to its depictions of violence. Several edits were made in order to reduce the rating to R.[11][12]


The film made $116 million worldwide[2] on a $40–50 million budget.[1]

While the film was heavily criticized for its excessive violence, it garnered a mostly positive critical response. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 80% approval rating based on 61 reviews.[13] On Metacritic, the rating is 73 (generally favorable reviews) out of 100 based on 17 reviews.[14]

List of Accolades
Award / Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Director Martin Scorsese Nominated
Golden Globe Award[15] Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Sharon Stone Won
Academy Award Best Actress in a Leading Role Sharon Stone Nominated

American Film Institute lists


Casino: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
File:Casino (1995) Soundtrack-Front.jpg
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released November 20, 1995
Genre Soundtrack
Label MCA
Producer Robbie Robertson

Disc 1

  1. "Contempt – Theme De Camille" by Georges Delerue
  2. "Angelina/Zooma, Zooma Medley" by Louis Prima
  3. "Hoochie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters
  4. "I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers
  5. "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues
  6. "How High The Moon" by Les Paul & Mary Ford
  7. "Hurt" by Timi Yuro
  8. "Ain't Got No Home" by Clarence 'Frogman' Henry
  9. "Without You" by Nilsson
  10. "Love Is the Drug" by Roxy Music
  11. "I'm Sorry" by Brenda Lee
  12. "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac
  13. "The Thrill Is Gone" by B.B. King
  14. "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia
  15. "The 'In' Crowd" by Ramsey Lewis
  16. "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael

Disc 2

  1. "Walk on the Wild Side" by Jimmy Smith
  2. "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" by Otis Redding
  3. "I Ain't Superstitious" by Jeff Beck Group
  4. "The Glory of Love" by The Velvetones
  5. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by Devo
  6. "What a Diff'rence a Day Made" by Dinah Washington
  7. "Working in the Coal Mine" by Lee Dorsey
  8. "The House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals
  9. "Toad" by Cream
  10. "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" by Tony Bennett
  11. "Slippin' and Slidin'" by Little Richard
  12. "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" by Dean Martin
  13. "Compared to What" (Live) by Les McCann & Eddie Harris
  14. "Basin Street Blues/When It's Sleepy Time Down South" by Louis Prima
  15. "St. Matthew Passion (Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder)" by Johann Sebastian Bach (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Georg Solti)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Army Archerd (1995-11-13). "Scorsese puts faith in preview auds". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Scott Foundas Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm (2013-05-07). "Andrew Garfield to Star in Martin Scorsese's 'Silence' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Casino (1995)". Box Office Mojo. 1996-01-19. Retrieved 2014-02-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Pileggi, Nicholas (1995). Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas (First ed.). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80832-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Nicholas Pileggi. Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. p. 261.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Baxter, John. De Niro: A Biography. p. 336.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Thompson, David & Christie, Ian. Scorsese on Scorsese. p. 198. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Levitan, Corey (2008-03-02). "Top 10 scandals: gritty city". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2008-03-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Thompson, David & Christie, Ian. Scorsese on Scorsese. pp. 200–204. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Baxter, John. De Niro: A Biography. p. 337.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Bona, Damien Inside Oscar 2
  12. Dretzka, Gary (November 9, 1995). "Casino Wins Appeal For R Film Rating". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 21, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Casino (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 23, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Casino reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 10, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Golden Globe Awards for 'Sharon Stone'". Retrieved 2016-01-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Thompson, David; Christie, Ian (1996). Scorsese on Scorsese. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22002-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Evans, David (2006). De Niro: A Biography.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links