How TV Representation of Gambling Compares to Reality

PokerChipsThere are few people who can deny the excitement involved in the concept of gambling.  The possibility of winning or losing money at the toss of a die is something that gets us all buzzing. The feeling of watching that ball spin round the roulette wheel, hoping that it will land on a particular number, is incomparable to many other things.

However, the reality of gambling is quite different to how it is sometimes painted on film and television.  There have been numerous popular television series over the past decade or so based around casinos and gambling, some of which are discussed below.

Luck is an American drama starring Dustin Hoffman which first aired in 2012.  It tells the story of a mobster who is released from prison after a three-year stint, who plans to take control of a horse racetrack in Los Angeles, whilst simultaneously planning his revenge on the one who helped send him to prison.

Another American television series is Las Vegas, a show which focuses on the daily lives of a number of people working in the fictional Montecito Casino and Resort.  It follows the various characters closely as they do their jobs and the various situations they encounter.

Vegas is a period drama set in the sixties starring Dennis Quaid.  It centres on the Sheriff and his relationship with casino mobster Vincent Savino, who has moved to Las Vegas to set up a gambling operation.

These fictional television series are dramatized, as you would expect, to exaggerate the highs and lows of the gambling world.  Casinos are absolutely perfect for television as they represent a sort of microenvironment of their own. In this environment, you will find all sorts of people, creating a potent fusion of characters.  The highs and lows are accentuated and the fluctuation of emotions is nearly on par with the exchange of chips.

The purpose of these shows is to make for some entertaining and gripping viewing, and this effect is certainly helped by the glamorisation of the industry.  This over glamorisation is clearly evident in Luck, Las Vegas and Vegas.

There are also a number of television shows which give a truer portrayal of the industry. These are often documentary-style shows and have a more sinister feel than the glammed-up drama series.

One such program is Breaking Vegas, which initially aired in 2004.  This documentary talks about the great lengths that people will go to make money from casinos.  The tactics employed by gamblers in the show range from legal tactics such as counting cards, to illegal scams such as the use of sleight of hand or electronic devices.  Although these tactics will not be employed by players that often, it is what happens in many casinos, especially the bigger ones with more money to be won.

There was a recent BBC documentary, presented by Alexis Conran (star of ‘The Real Hustle’).  In this documentary, which is titled ‘Gambling, Addiction and Me: The Real Hustler’, Conran takes a look at the reasons why some people lack the discipline to cut their losses and walk away.  This show takes a look at the more sinister side of gambling, where real problems can begin to emerge.  Although this is in no way relevant to all flutterers, this problem very real in all gambling demographics.

In the documentary, Conran travels from the world, from the UK to Vegas to Athens, to meet with various gambling addicts and experts.  He does this in order to gain a better insight into what makes gambling a compulsion which ends in ruin.

The recent growth of online casinos and mobile casinos has opened up a whole new market for gambling, and these sectors are still in their early stages.  These innovations will create further problems in the areas Alexis Conran is trying to analyse.  If you are looking to get involved in online gambling, please be sure to do so responsibly, and not gamble in any casino you find online. You can read reviews of some of the best online casinos sites on With the gambling industry on the rise as it is, it is likely that we will see more of these television programs in the near future.