20 Weird, Wonderful, Useless Facts About the Movie “Casino”

“Casino” is one of the all-time great movies about Las Vegas. The film, released in 1995, was inspired by real people and, in large part, actual events.

“Casino” is a funny, violent, eye-opening glimpse into the colorful history and culture of Las Vegas casinos, and the film has helped shape how many perceive Sin City, for better or worse.

Here, then, are some weird, little-known and arguably useless facts about the movie “Casino.”

1. “Casino” was based upon a real casino boss, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. He was played by Robert De Niro. Joe Pesci’s character was based on Lefty’s real-life gangster associate, Tony Spilotro. Read more about Frank Rosenthal.

Casino

“Casino” is consistently listed as one of the best Las Vegas movies of all time. The worst? “Showgirls.”

2. The director of “Casino,” Martin Scorsese, said he didn’t expect the head-in-a-vice scene to make it into the movie. He included it because he thought it would distract the MPAA and would make other scenes seem less violent by comparison. It stayed in.

3. The vice scene came from the book “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas” and was drawn from Tony Spilotro’s interrogation of a gangster named Billy McCarthy. McCarthy committed the unauthorized murder of two brothers, the Scalvos, and Spilotro tried to get McCarthy to give up the identity of the man who assisted with the murders. Spilotro beat McCarthy, then stabbed him in the testicles with an icepick. Eventually, he put his head into a vice and crushed it until his head was just five inches wide. McCarthy didn’t give up the name of his partner, Jimmy Miraglia, until Spilotro tightened the vice enough to make one of McCarthy’s eyes pop out. McCarthy survived long enough for Spilotro to kill him by pouring lighter fluid on him and setting him ablaze.

Casino movie

In this scene, a customer attempts to take photos of the exterior of Palace Station. Long story.

4. The casino in the movie, The Tangiers, didn’t exist. It was based upon the history of the Stardust. The song “Stardust” is played three times during the course of the movie.

5. The film was shot inside the Riviera. Yes, the one that is now a parking lot.

6. The exterior scenes outside the Tangiers were filmed in front of the Landmark Hotel across from what was then the Las Vegas Hilton, now Westgate Las Vegas.

7. Scorsese arranged to shoot at The Riv for six weeks, four nights a week, from midnight to 10:00 a.m.

Riviera neon sign

Riviera’s last hurrah was being featured in the awful action film, “Jason Bourne.”

8. All of the counting room scenes were filmed on a set because the production wasn’t allowed to film inside the counting room in the real Riviera casino.

9. For authenticity, and to keep from having to train actors how to do it, real dealers and pit bosses were used whenever possible.

10. Joe Pesci broke a rib during the filming of the scene where he’s whacked in a cornfield. It was the same rib broken by Robert De Niro during the filming of “Raging Bull.”

11. The real setting of the murders of Anthony Spilotro and his brother Michael was a basement in Illinois. They went there believing Michael was going to be inducted into the mob. This is the same way Joe Pesci’s character is killed in “Goodfellas.”

12. Lots of actresses were considered for the role of Ginger, including Nicole Kidman, Melanie Griffith, Rene Russo, Cameron Diaz, Uma Thurman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Traci Lords and Madonna. Sharon Stone won out.

Casino movie

In casino slang, a woman who uses her sexuality to take advantage of unsuspecting high rollers is called “this blog’s sister.”

13. Martin Scorsese has said his favorite shot in the film is the overhead sequence of Sharon Stone at the craps table when she’s throwing chips up in the air.

14. The High Roller in that scene was played by Ali Pirouzkar (see below). Pirouzkar was cast when talent scouts spotted him strolling through Fashion Show Mall. On his first night of shooting, someone snuck onto the set and offered him $10,000 to leave (so the man could take his part). He declined.

Ali Pirouzkar

If you bump into Ali, please let him know we’re trying to reach him. No, really. His number was disconnected.

15. The costume budget for “Casino” was $1 million. Robert De Niro had 70 different costumes, all made from scratch.

16. More than 7,000 extras were used in the film. There were 120 speaking parts.

17. To avoid the continuity problems, Robert De Niro always held his cigarettes the same distance from the lit end so their lengths were consistent.

18. The “f” word is used 435 times in “Casino,” an average of 2.4 times per minute.

Casino movie

What could possibly go wrong?

19. Most of the conversations between Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in “Casino” were improvised.

20. The studio’s lawyers were very nervous about “Casino,” so they changed the character names and never mentioned Chicago as the mob’s headquarters in the film. (They used “back home.”) The titles said “adapted from a true story” rather than “based on a true story.” Scorsese claimed “pretty much everything” in the movie is true.

There you go. Have more fun facts about “Casino”? Post them in the comments.

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First Skill-Based Slot Machines in Las Vegas Debut, Here’s the Low-Down

Skill-based slot machines, the subject of much buzz and speculation over the last couple of years, have officially arrived in a Las Vegas casino.

The first skill-based slot machines in Las Vegas can now be played at Planet Hollywood, and we’ve got all the details about what casinos are hoping will help deal with “The Millennial Problem.”

Gamblit skill-based slot machines

Welcome to Las Vegas, you sexy, skill-based vixens, you.

The Millennial Problem, of course, is the belief on the part of casinos and slot machine makers that traditional slots are “losing their luster,” especially with younger customers, specifically, millennials. While the number of millennials visiting Las Vegas is going up (roughly 34 percent of the city’s 43 million visitors in 2016 were millennials, an increase of 24 percent since 2015), casinos cite a decline in slot machine play as evidence millennials raised on video games don’t find traditional slot machines compelling.

There’s some debate about whether The Millennial Problem actually exists, but damn it, casinos are out to solve it whether it exists or not. That’s where skill-based slot machines enter the picture.

Why, look, here’s one now. This is one of three skill-based slot machines at Planet Hollywood.

skill-based slot machine

If you’re a millennial, your nether region should be throbbing right about now.

Of the three games being tested on the casino floor at Planet Hollywood (the machines have to pass a field trial before regulatory approval can be granted), two are Gamblit Poker and the third is a game called Cannonbeard’s Treasure.

The first distinctive thing you notice about these skill-based games is you can’t play with yourself. Yes, we know how that sounds, we are a snark-based Las Vegas blog.

The machines can accommodate up to four players each, but not individual players.

It should be noted the machines currently won’t take loyalty club cards, in case you’re into that kind of thing.

Here’s how they work.

Gamblit Poker is a variation of (wait for it) poker. Players “grab” cards from a common pool of cards, building a hand of five cards. The player with the best hand wins the jackpot, the amount of which is determined by the machine.

Cannonbeard’s Treasure is a variation of blackjack. Players, again, grab cards from a pool of cards. The cards are added up, and the player whose card total is closest to the target number (without going over) wins the pot.

Here’s a look at how the simulated game play looks on the machines, courtesy of us risking our neck to get video of how the simulated game play looks on these machines.

A key element of skill-based machines, and what differentiates them from traditional slot machines, is customers aren’t playing against the machine (or a dealer), they’re playing against each other. The outcome is based upon skill, rather than chance alone.

Mind, meet blown.

So, let’s dig a bit deeper into the pros and cons of Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure.

First, a big pro of these games is the low price to play. There’s a $2 Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure is also $2. There’s also a $5 Gamblit Poker.

Second, the competitive and social aspects of skill-based games are undeniable. Traditional slot machines are solitary endeavors. With skill-based games, you can hang out with friends and do your best to relieve them of their hard-earned cash.

Observing people play skill-based slots, it’s easy to see how one’s competitive instincts can kick in, keeping players engaged and playing longer than they might otherwise.

Interactivity certainly does seem to be more appealing than staring blankly at a screen while repeatedly hitting a button.

skill-based slot machine

This is Cannonbeard’s Treasure. They had us as “each player gets not one, but two, cup holders.”

The biggest twist in this whole story, though, is millennials aren’t actually the ones playing skill-based games, at least not the ones at Planet Hollywood. Millennials are curious about the machines, but they’re hit-and-run looky-loos, rarely playing more than $20 a pop.

Truth be told, we didn’t see a ton of play on these machines at all. But when people played, they weren’t millennials. Who’s playing skill-based slots? Slot players. That’s right, older players who already enjoy slot machines. A representative of Gamblit confirmed millennials aren’t the majority of those playing skill-based slots.

That ought to give casino operators more than a few restless nights.

While play on the machines appears light, there’s obviously going to be a period when awareness of the games has to be raised. At Planet Hollywood, a small sign tells customers they can actually gamble on these tables. Most would mistake them for similar interactive, touchscreen tables like those in several Las Vegas lounges like Ignite at Monte Carlo, Encore Players Lounge at Wynn and iBar Ultra Lounge at Rio.

The new games are simply lost among the crop of current slot machines, many with massive vertical screens.

skill-based slot machines

Not gonna lie, we’re missing you a little right now, Quark’s Bar.

Those who did play the games seemed to spend a lot of time just sitting and drinking and talking. Which is great if you’re trying to increase revenue from drinks, but not so much if you’re trying to make money from gambling. At a table game, dealers and other players keep the pressure on to make more bets. The social aspect of skill-based games actually distracts from the gambling.

A critical downside to these games, though, has to do with perceived value.

As players make bets, the machine serves up the amount of the jackpot they’re trying to win. In the vast majority of cases, the jackpot is less than the players are contributing.

For example, we saw a couple sit down to play Gamblit Poker. They each bet $5, for a total contribution of $10. The jackpot was $7.50. They had fun playing, but the next pot was the same, ditto the one after that. It didn’t take the couple long to realize they were getting dinged a $2.50 “rake” with each passing hand.

The rake accumulates, similar to the jackpots in progressive machines. Part of the rake goes to the machine manufacturer, and the manufacturer has a revenue sharing agreement with the casino. We’ve yet to see any published information about the house edge for these games.

While the potential for larger jackpots is there (the max jackpot on the $5 machine is $1,200, $480 on the $2 machine), the couple cashed out and dashed. A Gamblit rep says the biggest jackpots happen several times each hour, but the perception problem means many players won’t be sticking around that long.

Presumably, though, the more play the machine gets, the more frequently the larger jackpots (considerably more than what the players are betting at any time) will hit.

There are some other peculiar aspects to these skill-based games.

For starters, we were told there will always be an attendant with the games. Why? Because they have to monitor the play to avoid collusion and bullying. We were told there’s the potential for experienced players, or teams, to take advantage of novice players. Essentially, there’s room for cheating.

A smaller annoyance, but one that’s undeniable, is the table surfaces require constant cleaning. Nobody wants to touch a screen that has hand smudges all over it, so attendants have to continually spritz and wipe the screens. High maintenance is right.

skill-based slot machines

Gamblit calls these skill-based slot machines “ModelG.” Find the ModelG spot near the Pleasure Pit, if you get our drift.

Overall, these new skill-based slot machines are a great conversation piece, and any “first” is a great PR opportunity.

It’s premature to say, though, skill-based slot machines are going to halt or reverse the decline of slot revenue trends. In fact, we’re going to venture they’ll have little or no effect on those numbers. Oh, yeah, we’re putting our naysaying right out there.

Gamblit officials have said they’re happy with the early results of their field test, but honestly, what would you expect them to say?

Here’s the bottom line, and it’s something you won’t hear often.

The fact is millennials are smarter than previous generations.

Millennials know more about gambling than their parents or grandparents ever did.

They know casinos have been gradually increasing the house edge for 20 years, and what millennials aren’t particularly interested in is being screwed. Shocker.

Millennials aren’t a thing, they’re people. People who happen to be technologically adept. People who value experiences. They’re people who know when the deck is stacked against them, and know when they’re being squeezed. They want value for their entertainment dollars, just like the rest of us.

Here’s how you solve The Millennial Problem. Lower the rake. Lower the minimums. Bring comped drinks more frequently. Let people take photos in the casino to share with friends.

The Millennial Problem isn’t a slot machine problem or a disposable income problem. It’s a perceived value problem.

And here’s hoping casinos are listening, because giving customers, young and old, better value and remarkable experiences is the solution. All due respect, Cannonbeard.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 47: Las Vegas Tricks, Ellis Island and “Casino”

It’s one of our most rambly podcast episodes, ever, so gird your loins. It’s not like you’re using them for anything else.

For starters, we learn a trick to avoid disappointment when interacting with a Las Vegas prostitute, and it’s all downhill from there.

We also talk about changes at Ellis Island, Monte Carlo’s evolution, progress at the Neon Museum expansion, The Dome at Downtown Container Park, casino credit lines and other awful ideas.

Ellis Island casino

This parking area at Ellis Island casino will soon be The Front Yard. The good news is you don’t have to mow it.

Even in our intoxicated stupor, we share all the latest Sin City news, including stories about paid parking at Cosmopolitan (paid self-park starts May 16), LAX nightclub will become an eSports arena, roulette is making a comeback, “Men of the Strip” is coming to Tropicana and Plaza has finally laid its Beer Garden to rest.

Plaza Beer Garden closed

Plaza’s Beer Garden was a noble experiment, much like the time we purchased Spanx.

In this week’s episode, there’s also history (Riviera opened April 20, 1955) and a listicle about “Casino,” one of the best movies ever made in relation to whacking.

In a world starving for fun, the Vital Vegas Podcast is an all-you-can-listen buffet of succulent Las Vegas sustenance. Or, alternatively, something that makes sense.

Listen, anyway!

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Neon Museum Completes Demolition for Expansion

It was just a couple of weeks ago that the Las Vegas Neon Museum announced it would be expanding to an adjoining lot.

Here’s what the site looked like as demolition commenced.

Neon Museum

Fun fact: If you hold the Neon Museum’s visitor center up to your ear, you can hear the ocean.

The neighboring building, the dilapidated L.A. Street Market, has already been removed, making way for an additional .27-acres of neon signs. That might not sound like a lot of space, but it will allow the Neon Museum to display 30-40 signs which have been in storage.

Here’s what the expansion space looks like now.

Neon Museum

The Neon Museum displays about 200 signs. That’s a lot. (We’ll wait.)

The signs are expected to include those from the Las Vegas Club, Spearmint Rhino, Longhorn Casino, Sahara Saloon, Opera House Saloon and Riviera.

Neon Museum

The Neon Museum was founded in 1996. Which is odd, since we didn’t even realize it was losted.

The Neon Museum expansion is happening due to a $425,000 grant from the City of Las Vegas.

Also planned for the new space is an open-air exhibit and events space.

Useless neon trivia: Neon was discovered after krypton and before xenon, and it’s the fifth most abundant element in the universe.

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Forbidden City Resort Could Bring Pandas, Cricket Fighting to Las Vegas Strip

We get giddy when we hear about new Las Vegas casinos in the works and this one’s a doozy. We’ve got the inside scoop on a proposed $5 billion Asian-themed resort called Forbidden City Palace Casino and Hotel Resort.

Forbidden City seems to have flown under the radar, but it’s an ambitious project its developers claim “will set the standard for excellence in Las Vegas.” Now, that we’d love to see!

Here’s a look at Forbidden City, a resort that will “bring unparalleled examples of Chinese architecture with feng shui principles” to the center of the Las Vegas Strip.

Forbidden City Palace Casino Hotel

The standard for excellence in Las Vegas isn’t going to set itself, people.

Exciting, right?

Forbidden City is being developed by AEPA, “a limited liability corporation under the direction of its President, Alfred Liu.” According to the project’s promotional materials, there are also Chinese companies involved to “carry out the plan, including experienced developers and material manufacturers.”

Forbidden City is an ambitious project, to say the least. The array of proposed attractions and amenities are stunning.

The “unique and spectacular offerings” include “Royal Weddings,” “Cricket Warfare,” “Cultural Integrity,” “Exotic Experiences, a giant panda habitat and Entertainment Center.

Naturally, “Cricket Warfare” and giant pandas jumped right out at us.

First, “Cricket Warfare.” The developer says, “Once the exclusive game of the Emperor, cricket fighting has been a popular sport in China for centuries. Watch the drama unfold and the tension build as powerful fighting crickets square off when AEPA brings this popular, imperial gaming sport to the Forbidden City.”

AEPA, PETA. PETA, AEPA.

Next, pandas. Everyone loves pandas!

Pandas

People love pandas so much there was actually a show at Palazzo called “Panda.”

Apparently, the aforementioned Mr. Liu knows a guy. The resort’s proposal says, “Mr. Liu’s strong relationship with the former Governor of the Sichuan Communist Party has created the exclusive opportunity to bring the giant panda to the Forbidden City. A proposal submitted by the Sichuan provinces is pending before the State Council.”

If you’re in China and looking to get a great table in a packed restaurant, everyone knows you drop this line to the hostess and you’re golden: “Good evening and please be aware I have a strong relationship with the former Governor of the Sichuan Communist Party. Thank you.”

Interestingly, a competing Asian-themed resort, Resorts World, once proposed a panda exhibit, but dropped the idea when it got what experts call “a clue.” That means Forbidden City will have the only pandas in Las Vegas. Take that, Resorts World.

So, what else do we know about Forbidden City Palace Resort?

Well, as mentioned, Forbidden City will be located in “the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.” Check out the site plan, below.

Forbidden City Las Vegas

Unless you get pandas and fighting crickets, your luck is about to run out, Lucky Dragon.

It’s hard to tell from the site plan, but two of our astute blog commenters, Graham and Denver Gambler, have noted Forbidden City could very well have its eyes on the Rock in Rio site (owned by MGM Resorts) at the corner of Sahara and Las Vegas Blvd.

Forbidden City

It may as well be the Rock in Rio site, as Rock in Rio won’t be using it.

That would be an expensive piece of real estate, but the developers of Forbidden City have no doubt taken everything into account as they put together their financing.

Speaking of financing, it sounds like Forbidden City is going to have no problem finding the estimated $5 billion needed to complete the project.

The developer says, “All construction materials will be fabricated in China and assembled by AEPA’s experienced workers in Las Vegas. The favorable wage and quality service provided by skilled Chinese craftsmen lowers the construction cost and improves the efficiency of the project.”

Made in China, assembled in the U.S.A. We’re curious to know how the pandas are going to feel about that.

Anyway, we love everything about the proposed Forbidden City Palace Resort, from the Performing Arts Center with a 1,600-seat “symphony theater” to food carts with “Shanghai, Cantonese and Beijing delicacies” roaming the casino floor.

Forbidden City casino Las Vegas

Fireworks were invented in China during the Tang Dynasty, an era which would later inspire the name of a powdered drink popular with astronauts. Millennial translation: Long story.

Does Forbidden City sound like a whimsical project? Sure. Is Resorts World, despite all the hoopla surrounding its groundbreaking, all that much further along in its construction? No.

Take a look at the full Forbidden City proposal (.doc format).

And if you think Forbidden City is out of the realm of possibility, why are indexes of upcoming construction listing it?

It’s time Las Vegas finally had a Forbidden City. A few years back, a similarly-named project, Dynasty Forbidden City, was proposed, but failed. Another failed resort, Xanadu, planned a Forbidden City restaurant. No go. Resorts World says it will have a Forbidden City Retail District. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Thanks, by the way, to eagle-eyed sleuth and loyal reader Deena E. for pointing us in the direction of the Forbidden City Casino project.

And to the developers of Forbidden City, we share the words of Arthur O’Shaughnessy, or possibly Willy Wonka, “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

It’s worth noting that later in O’Shaughnessey’s ode are less-known words, “With wonderful deathless ditties, we build up the world’s great cities. And out of a fabulous story, we fashion an empire’s glory.”

The glorious empire that is Las Vegas was built by dreamers, so dream on, Forbidden City, dream on.

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Experiment Reveals Average Face of Las Vegas Escorts

A Canadian Web site has collected data and used face-morphing software to reveal the average face of female, male and transgender escorts.

The site used 277 images of Las Vegas escorts and has correlated the morphed images to escort price points. It’s a wacky idea at first glance, but the results are intriguing.

Here’s a look at the average faces of female escorts at various price ranges.

Female Las Vegas escorts

This is definitely not the place where we’re going to suggest the next study compare average escort gazongas, because that would be wrong.

The site takes care to note prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, but escorts often sell their services as “companionship.” If anything romantic (or physical) happens, it’s the choice of the escort and falls outside laws prohibiting prostitution.

Yeah, we don’t really understand it, either.

Still, the morphed images are telling, and speak to the way our culture values certain beauty standards.

According to the site, “the most expensive female escort seems to have more refined features” and “has lighter skin and looks much younger” than the less expensive escort.

We’re curious who the escorts are who charge $10-99, and by “curious” we mean “please contact this blog immediately, if you get our drift.”

Here’s a look at the average face of the male Las Vegas escort.

Male Las Vegas escorts

Look, there’s no male equivalent for gazongas, so get off our back.

Yes, there are male escorts, which we have to admit we didn’t actually realize was a thing until approximately 10 minutes ago.

The Web site shares, “As the price point for an escort increases, each man’s features become more refined and model-like. It’s also important to note that the men become lighter skinned as services become more expensive.”

On a related note, “Male escorts charging more than $500 an hour seemingly wear nicer clothing as well.”

The site also morphed the faces of transgender female Las Vegas escorts.

Transgender Las Vegas escorts

Stop with your judging, it’s Las Vegas.

About the transgender female escorts, the site claims, “Those who fetch top dollars look professionally made-up, while the less expensive escorts have somewhat plain hairstyles. However, the transgender woman who charges between $250 and $499 an hour has the lightest skin. Interestingly, the most expensive escort has the darkest skin.”

Who knew?

We have zero sense of the scientific validity of the information provided in this experiment, but it’s a fascinating look at a Las Vegas subculture that doesn’t often get the spotlight.

We asked an actual escort, Nikki Irish, her reaction to the study, and she replied, “Who took time out of their life to do that?” We’ve found Nikki tends to not beat around the bush. So to speak.

The site used 95 male, 105 female and 77 female transgender images to create its morphed images. Male transgender escorts weren’t included due to a lack of available images.

See the full project at the Web site in question, and kudos to the site for getting us to link to them. That’s some online marketing gold right there.

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