Five casinos that only exist in movies
Gambling and movies have a long love affair – some of the most memorable scenes in film history take place inside casinos. They provide the perfect backdrops – with opulence, glamour, and the thrill and suspense only games of chance can provide.
You can visit the casinos depicted in some movies like the first Ocean’s Eleven and Golden Eye – they include the Bellagio, MGM Grand, and Casino de Monte Carlo. But in many instances, the casinos are purely fictional. Here are some movie casinos you cannot visit in real life:
The Tangiers – Casino (1995)
When it comes to talking about fictional casinos in movies, The Tangiers is probably the only logical place to start. After all, it is from a movie called “Casino,” based on true events that took place in the history of Las Vegas.
Directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, Casino is a magnificent movie starring none other than Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci. It tells the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, who is sent by the Chicago mob to Vegas to oversee their gambling operations there.
Rothstein is tasked with the management of the fictional Tangiers Casino, which was based on the Stardust. In reality, Frank Rosenthal, whose life “inspired” this movie, ran four different casinos for the Mob.
The fictional Tangiers is based on locations from two real-life casinos. The interiors used extensively throughout the movie are from the Riviera in Vegas, which shut down in 2015. The external shots of the casino were borrowed from the iconic Westgate Resort and Casino, also in Vegas.
The Bank – Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
We had to wait until the third movie in the Ocean’s Eleven series to get a fictional casino. In the first movie, they used the three big names in the Vegas Strip – Bellagio, MGM Grand, and the Mirage. And the sequel was not even based on casinos, taking a European art heist setting instead.
But in the third part, Daniel Ocean and his gang return to Vegas, the place that started it all. This time around, the heist has revenge as the motive. Willy Bank, played by Al Pacino, is the villain here – he swindles Reuben, a member of the gang, leaving him bedridden with a stroke.
Danny and his team head to the newly constructed Bank Casino and Hotel to steal millions of dollars and ruin Willy Bank. The Bellagio and Palazzo resorts were used as filming locations for The Bank interiors in this movie.
While many casino scenes on this list focus on gaming tables, this one has a plot involving slot machines and massive payouts – at the end, after the gang completes the heist, they rig one of the slots to pay millions to a poor guy they had to put through a hard time as part of their elaborate plan.
The Red Dragon – Rush Hour 2 (2001)
The comedy series starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker was a global box office phenomenon in the early 2000s. In this sequel, detectives Lee and Carter go after the infamous Hong Kong Triads for the murder of US Customs Agents.
One of the main locations in the movie is the exotic Red Dragon Casino in Vegas, secretly owned by the Triads. Filled with acrobats, fireworks, and lion dancers, it is an enchanting place indeed – quite unlike any other Vegas casino shown on the big screen.
The casino indoors had to be heavily modified to fit the “Asian” theme. The building they used for this shoot was the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. It was picked as the company had closed it for good – giving the crew the freedom to work extensively for weeks to give it an authentic Asian vibe.
Casino Royale – James Bond movies
The British secret agent has a well-known association with gambling dens – many of his 24 motion pictures have at least one casino scene in them. Given the luxury and risks associated with the James Bond brand, casinos are a perfect match for his stories.
Casino Royale is the name given by Ian Fleming, the creator of the super spy, to the location depicted in his 1953 novel of the same name. It has featured in two movies – the original featuring Sean Connery, and the 2006 adaptation starring Daniel Craig.
But there is one major difference between the two Casino Royales. In the original novel and movie, the casino is located in Northern France. But in the 2006 movie, they shifted the location to Montenegro in the Balkans.
The Shangri La – The Cooler (2001)
This movie is without a doubt the least well-known out of the five lists here. It was an indie hit from the early 2000s, starring William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin in major roles. A critical hit, the movie landed Baldwin an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an evil casino manager.
William H. Macy is the hero of this movie – playing the role of a “cooler” at the Shangri La. A cooler is someone who is employed by the casino to play at tables where players and having a “hot streak” – the aim is to stop people from winning. It is an urban legend – the coolers are supposed to be players who naturally have bad luck that prevents them from winning.
There is no way to visit the Shangri La or its original shooting location now. The movie was shot inside the Golden Phoenix in Reno, while the casino was undergoing renovations. But it was closed in 2006 and later converted into condos.