Why Hollywood Deserted The Classic Gangster Theme & Casino Setting

Published: October 24, 2019

Some of the most memorable movies made in the decades approaching the millennium established the gangster genre as a behemoth of cinema. The stars of the film, played by actors like Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, and Ray Liotta, were often portrayed as cunning and glamorous, with many scenes taking place in equally glamorous venues such as private clubs, bars, and casinos. One of De Niro’s best ever films, let alone alongside Martin Scorsese, is Casino.

Casinos and games of gambling were of a particular favourite for moviemakers in the genre, as they provided a feel of elegance while fuelling the old suspicions that casinos were run by organised crime families.

Over time, however, the regularity of these films coming to the big screen slowed significantly. As times change, the moviemakers pivot to new ideas that will be of greater intrigue to the cinema-going public, and as the allure of both the gangster theme and their popular settings have faded, it makes sense that directors and writers found inspiration elsewhere.

The stories of gangsters and casinos once went hand in hand

Gangsters and organised crime groups were a very real problem across the USA through the 1900s. They would be underground loan sharks and run gambling games, and then it became known that many lavish clubs, restaurants, and casinos were owned by gangsters. Much of the power of the organisations came from the myths and hearsay that was built around them, with people scared of reporting them to the police and the police, for the most part, being out-foxed by the criminals.

Advancements in technology and policing eventually pushed them to the brink of extinction, and as the reality of gangsters being in control faded, so did the belief in the stories and the public interest in their stories. Just as technology helped to strip away gangsters from the streets and major businesses, it simultaneously started to remove the allure of one of their most popular settings as well.

The prestige of the setting and characters has faded

Both gangsters and their previous stomping ground of the brick-and-mortar casino have been de-glamorised through technology and a change in modern tastes. Even in Martin Scorsese’s latest film, The Irishman, which revisits the themes of his classic gangster movies, puts a far less glamorous shine on its criminal protagonists. This goes in line with the change in perceptions of gangsters and the internet allowing us all to have access to as much information as we need to disprove stories and hearsay.

Just as technology helped to wipe away the enigma and allure of the gangsters, it also moved public interest away from casinos, somewhat. People used to travel far and wide to experience the world-famous trills in lauded casinos, such as those across down the Las Vegas Strip, but over time, the audience has moved to the more convenient online space, with people choosing to play blackjack online in live games and its many variants rather than endure the expenses to make an occasion out of casino gaming.

Where once the gangster theme was relatable and interesting due to the real-world criminals, the stories that revolved around them, and the glamour associated with their associated venues, technology has moved interest elsewhere while simultaneously making gangsters and the likes of bricks-and-mortar casinos less relevant.