Casinos, blackjack, poker and more gambling games have appeared on our televisions, games consoles and through our radio speakers for decades. From music lyrics to the cinema screen, here are some of the most notable examples of gambling in popular culture over the years.
Examples of Gambling in Music
From Motörhead to The Rolling Stones, gambling references have been made some of the world’s most popular music. No matter the genre, you’re likely to hear the names of a number of world renowned casinos, blackjack and other gambling games in the lyrics of mind-blowing, timeless classics, all inspired by famous people, exciting places and a number of enjoyable events.
Ace of Spades by Motörhead
Released in 1980 as a single on a 7” vinyl, Ace of Spades is one of Motörhead’s biggest hits of all time. It acted as a preview track to their most recent album at the time, also named Ace of Spades.
The song itself is about the turbulent life of a man with a heavy gambling problem. Gambling metaphors and references to cards and dice are made throughout the song, with Lemmy justifying the inclusion by claiming that “you can’t really sing about spinning fruit, and the wheels coming down”.
Tumbling Dice by The Rolling Stones
The lead single for the album ‘Exile on Main St.’, Tumbling Dice was released in 1972 and quickly shot to number 5 in the UK Singles chart. It’s said that the song itself was inspired by Mick Jagger’s maid, as it was going to be called ‘Good Time Women’, but that idea was swiftly dropped.
The song itself is about an average gambler who cannot stay faithful to women he dates. The original track is rather bluesy, but it’s been covered by a number of different bands over the years, being converted into many musical genres, including rock and reggae.
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
Recorded in 1978, this song was originally written in 1976 by Don Schlitz. Roger’s version quickly became a number one country hit, although it was also included in the pop charts. In 1980, Rogers was awarded a Grammy for the best male country performance for his version of this classic tune.
Despite what the track is called, it’s not explicitly about a gambler or the act of gambling. Instead, it’s about dealing with what life throws at you, almost like making the most of the cards that are dealt to you during a game of poker.
Examples of Gambling in Film
Gambling and world famous casinos have made many appearances in a number of popular films over the years. From spectacular James Bond classics to comedic blockbusters, such as The Hangover, you’ll be able to effortlessly pick out even the most subtle of references to the world of gambling.
The Hangover, 2009
This ever-popular comedy stars Bradely Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong to name a few. Directed by Tod Phillips, the film takes place in Las Vegas two days before Doug’s wedding. His three friends are set on hosting his stag party in the city, and after acquiring a classic, vintage car to get there, they soon find themselves in the heart of the gambling capital of the world.
Making a reservation in the world famous Caesar’s Palace (a hotel and casino), they soon find themselves on a wild night out that leaves them confused and disorientated the next morning. Not remembering what happened, they use clues in and around their hotel room to retrace their steps, all before realising that the stag is in fact missing. Will they find him in time to attend his own wedding? Only time will tell.
With a 7.7 out of 10 rating on IMDb, and having made $1.42 billion at the box office, it’s clear that it’s still just as popular now as it was when it first burst onto the big screen over a decade ago.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, 1998
Directed by Guy Ritchie, this is an outrageous film involving a group of friends coming together to help raise half a million pounds after losing a high stakes poker game. Having pooled funds so that one of them could participate in the poker game against crime boss; Hatchet Harry, they eventually lose all of their money and find themselves owing Harry £500,000…and they have a week to raise the cash.
In order to get some money together, they go out burgling their neighbours who actually turn out to be drug dealers, causing them further problems. Starring Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham and Jason Felmyng, this film is bound to put you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The film ended up making £28.1 million at the box office with a budget of just £800,000 and it continues to be favourable over 20 years later as it’s also earned and retained an 8.2 out of 10 rating on IMDb.
James Bond, Casino Royale, 2006
After acquiring a license to kill, James Bond goes on a mission to Madagascar to prevent a man from raising cash to fund a terrorist organisation in a high stakes poker game. Working to stop him winning the game, James Bond only has the help of a British Treasury agent to aid in bringing the man down.
Starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench and expertly directed by Martin Campbell, Casino Royale proved to be a hit with the general public when it first hit the cinema screen, making $606.1 million at the box office. It’s clearly still a favourite with many fans, gaining an 8 out of 10 rating on IMDb to date.
Ocean’s Eleven, 2001
When a gambler assembles a group of eleven people to steal money from his rival’s three casinos, it’s set to be one of the most elaborate, sophisticated casino heists in history. The group of eleven masterminds only have three main rules to follow, all outlined by the head gangster, including: don’t hurt anybody, don’t steal from anyone who doesn’t deserve it and play the game like you’ve got nothing to lose. With such a smooth, thought-out plan in place, will they be able to execute it or will it all fall apart as quickly as it started?
Directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring an A-list group of actors, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts, it’s no wonder it managed to make $450.7 million at the box office that year. To this day, it’s also managed to retain a rating of 7.7 out of 10 on IMDb, so it’s still a popular choice for movie lovers two decades later.
Examples of Gambling in Video Games
Gambling in video games isn’t as much of a prominent theme as you’d have initially thought. With games on the market as daring as Grand Theft Auto, for example, even they seem to draw the line at casinos and the odd game of poker. But there are a couple of games that have pushed the boundaries, thrusting the gambling theme to the forefront of their original concepts.
Final Fantasy VIII
As part of the Final Fantasy series, this particular game is still exceptionally popular, despite the fact it hit the shelves in February 1999. Published by Square for the Sony PlayStation games console, the player takes it in turns with the CPU, competing in a gambling-style game.
The aim is to have the highest value cards and to end the game with as many cards as possible in your colour. If you manage to win, then you’re awarded a prize, but this isn’t the main plot of the game, nor is it the overall concept, but it acts as an interesting strand to an otherwise exciting play.
Fallout: New Vegas
This game is also part of a series, simply known as Fallout. This particular version was released by Bethesda Softworks over a decade ago, but it continues to be a popular choice for many avid gamers. It’s compatible with Microsoft Windows, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, so it can be played and enjoyed by everyone no matter what console you have.
The player will find themselves in a post-apocalyptic world, set in a region of the United States that meets California, Arizona and Nevada. The country was hit exceptional hard after a “great war” between the US and China over their resources. Eventually, the conflict turned nuclear, thus leaving America in a state of absolute disrepair.
Eventually, the player is able to control a character known simply as ‘the Courier’. The Courier’s sole job is to transport a package, although when in New Vegas, he is ambushed and the package is stolen from him. The player is then sent out on a mission to retrieve the package, although in the process, he’s forced into a conflict with others to determine the next chief of New Vegas.
Examples of Gambling in Television
Where gambling and casinos seem to make a regular appearance in some of the most popular films in the industry, the same cannot be said for television. With more of a focus on mystery and drama, the glitz and glamour of casino life doesn’t really come into it when looking into gambling references on the telly. Although, a couple of renowned, long-standing TV shows have episodes that are almost dedicated to the act of gambling or the setting up and enjoyment of casinos, and we’ll be detailing them here for you.
‘The One with All the Poker’ – Friends, 1994-2004
Released in 1995, this episode involves the girls in the group going up against the boys in a game of poker, all while Rachel goes on an all-important job interview. A friendly, harmless game between, you guessed it, friends, it still proves to bring out the competitiveness and rivalry between the pals, unbeknownst to Rachel. Achieving a rating of 8.8 out of 10 on IMDb, it remains to be one of the most popular episodes of the entire series.
‘$pringfield’ – The Simpsons, 1989-present
This episode of The Simpsons continues to be one of the most memorable in the series. Mr Burns opens a casino in the town, and as it grows in popularity, Homer manages to get a job as a blackjack dealer to bring home some money. Meanwhile, Marge becomes addicted to slot machines and Bart decides to open his own casino in the family’s treehouse. As his wealth grows, Mr Burns locks himself away in his penthouse and eventually, both his mental health and his general hygiene start to deteriorate at a somewhat rapid rate.
Directed by Wesley Archer, the episode has gained a rating of 8.6 out of 10 on IMDb, indicating that viewers are still enjoying the episode 27 years after it was released.
This article was written by Lorna Ball on behalf of NoWagering.com – an online gambling news and comparison website which promotes fairness and transparency, and takes safe and responsible gambling seriously.