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Prime-Time Casino

Televisions distorted view of casino operations

Prime-Time Casino

Someone said the other day that the casino business is now mainstream. With casinos all over the place, some think the old stereotypes of the industry could soon be long gone.

Then, ABC steps in. The network’s Castle crime drama works casinos into one of its plots, and the story line invariably veers off into comic-book land in its presentation of a casino and the “characters” that presumably can still be easily found in any such establishment.

The main character in the series, Richard Castle, is a mystery novelist who hangs around with police detectives. You know, like they do. A dead casino boss from Atlantic City shows up in a warehouse in New York, so some detectives go to Atlantic City, and Castle gets to go with them. That’s where it kicks into the casino cartoon.

First of all, the made-up Atlantic City casino, the “Sapphire Casino Hotel And I Think Spa,” didn’t even look like it was in Atlantic City. The opening shots of the sequence are fast-paced panoramas of a pristine Boardwalk, lined by gleaming hotels on the beach, with nothing but excitement in the air, and certainly no aging buildings, and certainly no hookers or vagrants or feral cats or gypsy fortune tellers. Operators in Atlantic City, in fact, should  be pleased with the ABC portrayal, which is a model of Atlantic City as destination resort.

It’s the Leave It To Beaver of casino tourist districts.

But once the Castle characters are inside the “Sapphire,” the plot slides swiftly into cliché. There are showgirls standing around inside the casino. There are Elvis impersonators everywhere. The casino boss is a mobbed-up Italian in a silk suit who threatens to break guys’ legs, and then presses a button to send a couple of goons to the casino to nab a nefarious “card counter,” and haul him off for a presumed leg-breaking.

There are nothing but elegant people in the casino, naturally. All beautiful, all dressed up and playing table games, laughing as they clink their cocktail glasses.

Did I mention that it’s Atlantic City?

Well, not really. The place they used for the casino shots wasn’t even in Atlantic City. I noticed right away that they didn’t use an actual Atlantic City casino like they did when they filmed sequences at Trump Plaza for Ocean’s Eleven. This place didn’t even look like any casino I’ve ever visited in Las Vegas. It looked like a suburban casino somewhere.

Actually, on a blog site, a fan identified the real location as an Indian casino in “mid central” America. It was one of thousands of comments posted by fans on one of several blog sites. Yes, there are Castle blogs, with thousands of people—evidently, people without jobs—discussing the minutia of every episode, every week.

It was my first visit to the “blogosphere,” and it was more than a little creepy.

But anyway, it wouldn’t have mattered where the casino was or was supposed to be in the story, because the casino itself was the Cliché Casino Resort, in Cliché, U.S.A. It’s just east of Atlantic City. Or it could be Las Vegas. Like I said, it doesn’t matter. It had the cartoon goons, the old lady playing slots, and, by the way, Carrot Top.

It’s pretty obvious Castle screenwriter Elizabeth Davis has never been in a casino, at least in this century, but do you think she could have done a little research? Maybe even go to Atlantic City? It’s like she said, “hmm, casino in the plot…” and flipped to the “Casino” entry in a 1950 encyclopedia. OK, she may have gone as far as to rent Ocean’s Eleven and its crappy sequel, but that’s about it.

Speaking of the public image of casinos, that got a real boost last month in Southern California, when four masked thieves stormed a casino with guns and tied cables to a display of money, and hitched it to a truck. When that failed, they used their guns to blow holes in the Plexiglas, snatched all the loot, and drove off in their pickup, cables dangling.

Police found the truck later, and it had a bag of cash in the back. Apparently, the thieves abandoned the getaway vehicle and the take.

Boy, casino thieves are real knuckleheads these days, aren’t they? And they’re lucky. If they ever tried that at the Sapphire, they’d get their legs  broken.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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