The casino industry has evolved a lot over the last few centuries. In Europe during the 18th century, the underground gambling halls morphed into the first legal casinos. Eventually, the same thing happened in the United States, with Nevada’s fledgling Las Vegas providing entertainment for the workers of the nearby Hoover Dam.
From those sawdust-covered floors, modern casinos developed with names like the Golden Nugget in the 1940s. The giant integrated resorts we know today began springing up in the 1980s, and online casinos came into existence in the late 1990s.
Today, most of Europe and a growing number of US states have legalized online casinos, though New Jersey continues to lead the way on this side of the pond, with more than 23 online casinos to choose from in NJ.
At every stage along the way, these casinos have influenced pop culture, changing what we watch, what we read, and what we listen to.
Casino’s Influence on Language
You may be surprised at just how many casino-related words and phrases you use in your everyday conversations. Casino and card games have been around for the best part of a millennium, with blackjack being the descendent of several card games that go back as far as the 13th century AD.
Having been around for such a long time, words and phrases while playing these games have worked their way into the common vernacular.
For example, “hedging one’s bets” is a phrase we use regularly to explain when we’re not committing to one particular option to protect ourselves from a negative outcome. In betting, you may hedge your bets by wagering on two opposing outcomes, while in life you might take a job interview while staying at your old job until you see which is the better option.
All commonly used phrases include “all bets are off,” which can mean no one is sure about the outcome of an event; and “poker face,” which describes someone who is not displaying any emotion.
Casino’s Influence on Music
Speaking of poker faces, Lady Gaga’s hit song is one of the most recent examples of the influence of casino games in music. But there are plenty of others.
The country and western singer Garth Brooks had a hit with Two of a Kind Working on a Full House back in 1990. The song leaned heavily on references to poker hands to discuss his relationship with his wife (two of a kind) and the fact that they planned to build a life together (a full house). The song contained betting references all the way through, with links like “I’m her wild card man” and “a real hot hand.”
Other popular songs that have been created by the influence of casinos and casino games include The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, House of Cards by Tyler Shaw, and Ace of Spades by Motörhead.
Casino’s Influence on Movies
Perhaps the most obvious influence that casinos have had on popular culture is in movies. Hollywood loves to set a movie in Las Vegas and its casinos, with at least 92 movies set in the city since 1941.
Popular examples include Ocean’s Eleven (and its 21’st century remake), Viva Las Vegas, Diamond Are Forever, The Godfather, Casino, The Hangover, and 21.
Writers often find the excitement and mystery that casinos offer are a great setting for their stories, with films like Ocean’s Eleven and Casino entirely based around the inner workings of the gaming business.
Others, including many James Bond movies, use casinos in certain scenes as they offer a great way to show the characters outwitting their rivals. A casino setting is also one of the few places where a protagonist and villain could sit in the same room and talk without being forced to attack or fight each other.