Casino (1995 film)

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Casino poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Produced byBarbara De Fina
Screenplay by
Based onCasino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas
by Nicholas Pileggi
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Edited byThelma Schoonmaker
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • November 22, 1995 (1995-11-22)
Running time
178 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40–50 million[1]
Box office$116.1 million[2][3]

Casino is a 1995 American epic crime film directed by Martin Scorsese, produced by Barbara De Fina and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film is based on the nonfiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas[4] by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Scorsese. It stars Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Kevin Pollak and James Woods. The film marks the eighth collaboration between director Scorsese and De Niro.

Casino follows Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro), a Jewish American gambling expert handicapper who is asked by the Chicago Outfit to oversee the day-to-day casino and hotel operations at the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas. Supporting characters include Nicky Santoro (Pesci), a "made man" and friend of Sam, and Ginger McKenna (Stone), a streetwise chip hustler whom Sam marries and has a daughter with. The film details Sam's operation of the casino, the difficulties he confronts in his job, the Mafia's involvement with the casino, and the gradual breakdown of his relationships and standing, as Las Vegas changes over the years.

The primary characters are based on real people: Sam is inspired by the life of Frank Rosenthal, also known as "Lefty," who ran the Stardust, Fremont, Marina, and Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago Outfit from the early 1970s until 1981. Nicky and Ginger are based on mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro and former dancer and socialite Geri McGee, respectively.

Casino was released on November 22, 1995, to mostly positive critical reception, and was a worldwide box office success. Stone's performance was singled out for acclaim, 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, sports handicapper and Mafia associate Sam "Ace" Rothstein is sent by the Chicago Outfit to Las Vegas, Nevada to run the Teamsters-funded Tangiers Casino, while Philip Green serves as the mob's hotel CEO front man. Sam doubles the casino's profits, which are skimmed by the mafia before taxes are paid. Mafia boss Remo Gaggi sends Sam's childhood friend and mob enforcer Nicky Santoro, Nicky's younger brother Dominick, and Frankie Marino to protect Sam and the skimming operation. Nicky's volatile temper and Chicago criminal background eventually gets him placed into the Nevada Black Book, banning Nicky from every casino in Nevada. Dominick and Frankie gather their own experienced mob crew, and often engage in non-sanctioned shakedowns and elaborate burglaries instead.

Sam meets and falls in love with beautiful hustler, dancer, and former prostitute Ginger McKenna. They have a daughter and marry, but their marriage is quickly thrown into turmoil due to Ginger's relationship with her former boyfriend, con artist-turned-pimp Lester Diamond. Sam has Nicky and his crew beat Lester when they catch him conning Ginger out of $25,000. Ginger turns to alcohol and develops an increasingly problematic drug addiction.

In 1976, Sam fires slot manager Don Ward for incompetence. When Ward's brother-in-law, Clark County Commission chairman Pat Webb, fails to convince Sam to rehire Don, Webb arranges for Sam's gaming license to be denied, jeopardizing his position. Sam blames Nicky's recklessness for ongoing police and Nevada Gaming Board pressure, and the two argue furiously in the Mojave desert. Sam starts hosting a local television talk show, upsetting both Nicky and the Chicago bosses for making himself such a public figure and bringing unwanted attention to their operations.

The Midwest Mafia bosses install incompetent Kansas City underboss Artie Piscano to oversee all cash transactions. Piscano writes everything he knows about the operations in a notebook. The FBI, having wired Piscano's store, are spurred into investigating Sam's casino.

Sam seeks to divorce Ginger, who kidnaps their daughter, planning to flee to Europe with her and Lester. Sam convinces Ginger to return with Amy, then overhears her planning on the phone to kill him. Sam kicks her out of their home but later relents. Ginger approaches Nicky to get her valuables from Sam's safe deposit box, and the two start an affair. Sam confronts and disowns Ginger, and ends his friendship with Nicky. Nicky throws Ginger out when she demands he kill Sam. Drunk and furious, Ginger crashes her car into Sam's on the driveway and retrieves the key to their deposit box. She takes the contents of the box but is arrested by the FBI as a witness.

In 1979, the FBI closes the casino and Green eventually cooperates with them. Piscano dies of a heart attack when federal agents discover his notebook. The FBI approaches Sam for help by showing him photos of Nicky and Ginger together, but he turns them down. The bosses are arrested and put on trial, and start to arrange the murders of anyone who might testify against them and prolong their subsequent sentences. Ginger dies of a drug overdose, and Sam barely escapes death by a car bomb, suspecting Nicky to be the culprit. Before Sam can take revenge, the bosses, angered by Nicky's legal issues and apparent unauthorized attempt on Sam's life, order Frankie and his crew to ambush Nicky and Dominick. Under the impression that they are attending a meetup in an Indiana cornfield, they are beaten with baseball bats, covered in quicklime, and buried alive in a shallow grave.

With the mob now out of licensing fronts, big corporations buy and demolish the casinos to make way for new, larger hotel casinos, which Sam laments. He retires to San Diego and lives as a sports handicapper, ending up in his own words, "right back where I started".




Casino is based on New York crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi's book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. The research for Casino began when news reporter and 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.[5] 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 (whose screenplay he co-wrote with Scorsese) was coming to an end.[6] 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. This skimming operation, when uncovered by the FBI, was the largest ever exposed.[7] A number of organized crime figures were convicted as a result of the skimming.[8]

Pileggi contacted Scorsese about taking the lead of the project, which became known as Casino.[5] 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.[6] Real-life characters were reshaped, such as Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, Geri McGee, Anthony Spilotro, and Spilotro's brother Michael. Some characters were combined, and parts of the story were set in Kansas City 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] Real life mobster turned witness Frank Cullotta inspired the character Frank Marino (played by Frank Vincent),[11] served as a technical advisor for the film,[12] and also played an on-screen role as a hitman.[13][14]

They also decided to simplify the script, so that the character of Sam "Ace" Rothstein worked only 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 him 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[edit]

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] Saul Bass did the title sequence, which was his last work.[15] 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.[16][17]



Casino was released in theaters in the United States on November 22, 1995.


Box office[edit]

Casino opened in 1,616 theaters and grossed about $10 million in its opening weekend.[3] The film grossed $43 million domestically and $73 million internationally, for a total of $116 million worldwide,[2] on a $40–50 million budget.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Upon its release, the film received mostly positive reviews from critics, although their praise was more muted than it had been for the thematically similar Goodfellas, released only five years earlier, with some reviewers criticizing Scorsese for retreading familiar territory.[18] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 80% based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Impressive ambition and bravura performances from an outstanding cast help Casino pay off in spite of a familiar narrative that may strike some viewers as a safe bet for director Martin Scorsese."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[20]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four, stating that "Martin Scorsese's fascinating new film Casino knows a lot about the Mafia's relationship with Las Vegas. Like The Godfather it makes us feel like eavesdroppers in a secret place." He added, "Unlike his other Mafia movies (Mean Streets and Goodfellas), Scorsese's Casino is as concerned with history as with plot and character."[21] Philip Thomas of the Empire praised the film while highlighting its similarities to Goodfellas. He gave the film five stars commenting "It may not be Scorsese's greatest work, but this guy feeling a little off-colour is still far, far better than most people on fighting-fit form. It only gets more impressive as time goes on."[22]

The film's critical profile has increased in years after its release, with several critics expressing that, in retrospect, they feel it is a more accomplished and artistically mature work than the thematically similar Goodfellas.[18][23]


List of Accolades
Award / Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Award Best Actress in a Leading Role Sharon Stone Nominated
Golden Globe Award[24] Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Won
Best Director Martin Scorsese Nominated


Casino: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
various artists
ReleasedNovember 20, 1995
GenreRock, soul, funk, R&B, blues, jazz, country, traditional pop
ProducerRobbie Robertson
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[25]

Disc 1[edit]

  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[edit]

  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)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Army Archerd (November 13, 1995). "Scorsese puts faith in preview auds". Variety. Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Scott Foundas Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm (May 7, 2013). "Andrew Garfield to Star in Martin Scorsese's 'Silence' (Exclusive)". Variety. Archived from the original on April 30, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Casino (1995)". Box Office Mojo. January 19, 1996. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  4. ^ Pileggi, Nicholas (1995). Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80832-3. Archived from the original on August 20, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Baxter, John. De Niro: A Biography. p. 336.
  6. ^ a b Thompson, David & Christie, Ian. Scorsese on Scorsese. p. 198.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Levitan, Corey (March 2, 2008). "Top 10 scandals: gritty city". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  8. ^ Delugach, Al. "5 Mob Figures Guilty in Vegas Skimming Case". Archived from the original on October 28, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Thompson, David & Christie, Ian. Scorsese on Scorsese. pp. 200–204.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ Baxter, John. De Niro: A Biography. p. 337.
  11. ^ "Casino (1995)". Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  12. ^ "Old mobster is at peace with his past". November 23, 2015.
  13. ^ Tanner, Adam. "How An Infamous Mafia Hitman Rebuilt His Identity From Scratch". Forbes. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  14. ^ "Frank Cullotta, Mobster Turned Memoirist and YouTuber, Dies at 81". August 24, 2020. Archived from the original on August 24, 2020.
  15. ^ How Design Legend Saul Bass Changed Film and TV Forever
  16. ^ Bona, Damien Inside Oscar 2
  17. ^ Dretzka, Gary (November 9, 1995). "Casino Wins Appeal For R Film Rating". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 9, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Charity, Tom (July 5, 2016) [1st pub. 2007]. The Rough Guide to Film: Marin Scorsese. Penguin. p. 497. ISBN 978-1-84353-408-2.
  19. ^ "Casino (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  20. ^ "Casino reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 23, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  21. ^ Roger Ebert (November 22, 1995). "Casino movie review & film summary". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  22. ^ Empire (January 1, 2000). "Casino review". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  23. ^ Vargas-Cooper, Natasha (November 10, 2011). "Martin Scorsese's Casino". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 26, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  24. ^ "Golden Globe Awards for 'Sharon Stone'". Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  25. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (November 14, 1995). "Casino – Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. RhythmOne. Archived from the original on December 18, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2017.


  • Thompson, David; Christie, Ian (1996). Scorsese on Scorsese. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22002-1.
  • Evans, David (2006). De Niro: A Biography.

External links[edit]