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Published on January 30th, 2021 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


The Representation of Gambling in the USA Within Popular Culture

Betting activities and games such as blackjack, roulette, and poker have been popular amongst many Americans for a long time. Due to its popularity, gambling is often used as a theme or focal point in movies and music. However, the representation of gambling and casino games can often differ depending on the subject matter.

Gambling Representation in Movies

Representations of gambling in movies set in the USA have varied over time, with some films illustrating how games such as blackjack and poker are popular activities amongst groups of friends, and others using casino games as their main action-packed premise. When films showcase a group of people who are looking to gamble, more often than not, it involves a trip to Las Vegas. Films such as The Hangover (2009) and Swingers (1996) paint the picture of Las Vegas as being the city of neon lights, and the party lifestyle that has often been associated with casino.

Gambling and casino games themselves have often been used as the main focal point within movies set in the USA. 21 (2008) is centred around a group of university students that study and play blackjack, and, again, has one of the main scenes take place in a casino in Las Vegas. In contrast, Rounders (1996) is a film all about the game of poker, and mainly focuses on the underground scene. Rounders is set in New York and represents poker as an activity played between groups of friends and associates. In contrast to the bright lights of Vegas, Rounders takes place in more private, low-key settings.

Gambling Representation in Music

Over the years, a variety of popular songs have featured lyrics mentioning gambling and a variety of casino games. Again, Las Vegas is often represented as the hub of glitz, glamour, and gambling, exemplified through Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas (1964). Specific casino games have often been used as the focal point for classic hit songs. The Gambler (1978), a hit song by popular singer Kenny Rogers, features a lyrical theme centring around the game of poker and includes the iconic line ‘You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em’.

Interestingly, lyrics relating to gambling have become less commonplace in popular music today. However, certain phrases and metaphors relating to gambling have been used in modern pop music. Rap artist Roddy Rich’s song, Roll Dice (2019), uses rolling the dice as a metaphor for taking risks in life.

How Representation May Change in the Future

Traditionally, a large majority of US gambling representations in popular culture relate to Las Vegas, however as online casinos have become more popular, different places and settings are starting to be associated with gambling and casino games. As shown by the research they conducted, online casinos, such as the ones listed on BonusFinder, are growing in popularity amongst a variety of states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware. It will be interesting to see if the representation of gambling in popular culture changes following the growth of online casinos in other states.

As long as gambling and casino games remain popular within contemporary culture, the activities will continue to remain relevant across most forms of media. It will be interesting to see whether future representations will change alongside the development of the online industry, or whether the same cliche trends will continue to be seen on screen.





About the Author

Journalist, Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and Media Consultant. Ph.D. and retired military. Member of ForbesBLK, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, and the United States Press Agency. Partner at THM Media Group. Connect with Jerry across social media @jerrydoby_

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