🎥🍣 Movie Sushi — Casino

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8 min readMar 6, 2021

Whenever Sam “Ace” Rothstein placed a bet, he could change the odds for every bookmaker in the country. At the time, Las Vegas was making $1bn annually. Anywhere else, Sam was judged harshly for being a gambler, but not in Las Vegas. For guys like Sam, Las Vegas made you rich. The cash from the players flowed from the tables to the casino’s boxes through the cage to the most sacred room in the casino: The Count Room.

All the people in the Count Room were actually there to rob it. They did short counts, lost fill slips and took cash right out of the drop boxes. The skimmer then walked out with the cash in a suitcase. This suitcase went to Kansas City, where the Midwest bosses secretly controlled Las Vegas — through the Teamsters Union. Andy Stone, head of the Teamsters pension fund was seen as a legitimate man, but he took orders. Stone gave a pension fund loan for $62,700,000 to Phillip Green to buy the Tangiers casino.

Sam Rothstein ate, slept and breathed gambling. He made his first bet at fifteen and he always won. He found out detailed insider knowledge, like if the quarterback was on drugs or if his girlfriend was pregnant. He’d get the wind velocity so he could judge the field goals.

To the bosses, Ace was a cash register — especially to Remo Gaggi. Ace told Remo everything he heard: fixed fights, dope bosses, locked-in point spreads. Keeping Remo happy was the greatest insurance policy in the world. And, while Ace made book, Nicky ensured they always collected.

Politicians in the casinos came cheap, it was “Whales” like Ichikawa that could be problematic. They played fast and big. Ichikawa once took Sam for $2m. Sam then restricted all air travel to Japan and comped him a whole floor of rooms. Once back at the tables, Ichikawa soon lost his original winnings plus a million more. The longer gamblers played, the more they lost.

Sam sees Ginger throw someone’s box of chips in the air and is immediately smitten. She becomes a queen around the casinos, bringing in high-rollers and massaging their egos. She was one of the best-known, best-liked, most-respected hustlers in town. She knew how to take care of people: the dealers, the pit bosses, the floor managers, but mostly, she took care of the valet parkers. This is because the valet parkers took care of the security guards — who took care of the Metro cops who let her operate. The valet parking job was such a money maker, they had to pay off the hotel manager just to get the concession.

Nicky Santoro couldn’t wait to get his hands on Vegas, quickly getting all the bookies, pimps and drug dealers in line. If he won a bet, he collected; if he lost, he wouldn’t pay. Out of respect, other crews got away with a warning. Everybody else had to watch out.

Sam’s security finds a cheat and pokes him with a cattle prod before dragging him off. After establishing that the cheat is right-handed, Sam destroys this hand with a hammer. The cheat’s accomplice is then brought to the same back room. After a sincere threat, Sam tells him to spread the word: the Tangiers means business.

Sam and Ginger get married. He shows her their fancy, new house, presents her with a new, chinchilla fur coat and a big box full of gold jewellery. With over a million in cash and jewels stashed away in a bank in Vegas just for Ginger, she was secure and happy. He put $2m in cash in a Los Angeles bank under a false name in case of a shakedown or kidnapping and gave Ginger the key. It was strictly for emergencies, like if Sam’s ever put in prison or if his life’s in danger.

Sam hires Jonathon and David, complete with tigers. He builds them a new stage and gives them a silver Rolls-Royce. He brings over the whole Femme Fatale show from Paris. He takes bookie joints off the street and sets them up inside the Tangiers. Through Sam’s innovations and Nicky’s dedication to his job, they soon had the best operation on the strip.

Then, Nicky’s added to the “black book”. Now, Sam can’t be seen talking to Nicky anywhere in or near Vegas. Nicky’ll be thrown out of every casino and fined $100,000 every time he shows up. Because of his “notorious and unsavoury reputation,” even casino carparks are forbidden for him.

Nicky brings in his brother Dominick and some desperados. Sal Fusco was a great second story guy. Jack Hardy worked for a safe company before he did a six year bit. And, Bernie Blue could bypass any alarm. Nicky had tipsters everywhere reporting the movements of high-rollers looking to get robbed.

Nicky’s crew was careful. They bypassed the alarms or drilled holes to knock through the wall. Local merchandise was usually offloaded elsewhere, but Nicky kept the best stuff in his bedroom. Nicky opened a restaurant, The Leaning Tower, and it was popular — attracting politicians, showgirls and movie stars. But, at 6:30am when his day had finished, whatever else he was doing, he always made breakfast for his son.

When Tony Dogs shoots up one of Remo’s bars, Remo’s furious and wants names. For two days and two nights Nicky and his crew torture Dogs with ice picks. Nicky finally squashes Dogs’ head in a vice for the name “Charlie M”. Word soon spreads that Nicky’s the new boss of Las Vegas.

There are three $15,000 sevens jackpots in twenty minutes, but Sam’s manager sees nothing wrong. The probability of a win on one machine is a million and a half to one. On three machines in a row, it’s in the billions. Sam fires Ward, despite the man’s connections. Phillip Green says Ward’s brother-in-law is County Commissioner and his uncle is Chief Judge. Sam’s more concerned with there being an equal amount of blueberries in every muffin.

At breakfast, Ginger asks Sam for $25,000, but won’t say what it’s for. She goes to the bank anyway to get the emergency cash. She meets with old pimp, Lester, and gives him the $25,000. Sam has Lester beaten up.

County Commissioner Pat Webb arrives to get Ward’s job back. Ward’s family is politically important. Sam says he knew about a scam on the slots and did nothing. Webb threatens to investigate Sam and his gangster pal, Nicky Santoro. Sam says the bottom line is that Ward can’t be trusted.

Suddenly, a woman sues Phillip Green in court, meaning Green must declare everything. Now, the cops are investigating Green as well as Nicky. Sam gives interviews emphasising the Tangiers’ credibility. When Pat Webb reads that Sam claims to run the Tangiers, he sees to it that Sam is also investigated.

Sam’s image is being tarnished by Nicky’s. Equally, Sam showing off makes the bosses back home look bad. When Sam says Nicky has lost control, Nicky comments on Sam’s pink bathrobe and cigarette holder.

Nicky now wants to go after Remo Gaggi; the skim; everything. The heat’s so intense from the FBI, Nicky must go to a bus-stop to speak privately. In response, Nicky buys his own counter-surveillance equipment. He buys police frequency radios, FBI de-scramblers and cameras that see in the dark.

The Control Board meets with Sam and they’re impressed — until a small plane crash lands on the adjoining golf course. The agents on board were watching Nicky play golf and ran out of fuel. Nicky offers $100 to whoever hits the plane.

Piscano, the Kansas City underboss, always complained to his brother-in-law and his mother detailing all the trips to Vegas to get money. The FBI are bugging his grocery store and they soon extend their surveillance to include Sam’s Las Vegas operations.

On Sam’s day in court, the commission denies his application straightaway. Sam accuses the chairman of corruption and hypocrisy, loudly calling out everyone present.

Sam launches his own TV show: Aces High — where he even juggles onscreen. Remo wants Sam to see sense. But, Sam wants to expose the hypocrisy he sees everywhere. Because the feds can only listen in on calls discussing crimes, after a few minutes of innocent talk, they click off. This is when Sam and Nicky swap with Ginger and Jennifer and talk crime.

Sam meets Nicky in the desert and he’s wary. There’s a 50–50 chance of Nicky killing him. Sam explains that there are ramifications for him whenever Nicky makes a move. Nicky says Sam’s all country clubs and his TV appearances have made him arrogant. Sam says he’s on TV because it strengthens his image. But, without protection from Nicky, Sam would be open to exploitation. Nicky leaves Sam with a final warning — in a big cloud of dust.

Nicky’s belligerent and betting heavily at the Tangiers. He’s down $10,000 and wants more. Sam’s worried about the police and the papers finding out. Nicky grabs Sherbert, tears the phone off a wall and beats him down with it.

Ginger takes daughter Amy to LA to meet with Lester. He wants them to run off to Europe. When Ginger returns, Sam can’t understand where his $25,000 went and quizzes her about it. Sam hears her on the phone saying she wants him dead. He drags her through the house by the hair and throws her out.

All the booze, coke and women start to get to Nicky’s crew. Nicky has to hit a man three times before he goes down, instead of just once. Blue is gunned down by police. Nicky’s crew shoots up the cop’s house. Nicky must cover his mouth now because the feds watching him have lip-readers.

Sam discovers Amy’s been tied to her bed and locked in her room. Ginger says she couldn’t reach the babysitter, so she tied Amy up so she could go out. Ginger goes to the Leaning Tower and tells Nicky she wants Sam killed. She still expects money from Sam, but Nicky can’t believe she’s serious. She’s wrestled out of the restaurant.

Next, Ginger is in Sam’s driveway ramming his car with hers. She goes straight to Sam’s office for the keys to their safe deposit box, then drives to the bank. She accesses the box. Sam arrives, but the police stop him. Soon, she’s arrested for aiding and abetting. Then, everybody else falls like dominos. Thanks to Piscano complaining on the wire, all criminal behaviour in Las Vegas was exposed. Lots of evidence was seized at the Tangiers. Green claims he was being extorted and names names.

When the feds seize the valuable Piscano expense reports — names, addresses — he has a heart attack and dies. Even the bosses are arrested. Andy Stone was a risk because he wasn’t Italian. Soon, anybody who knew anything was killed. Ginger burned through her money and jewels in Los Angeles in months. When they found her body, she’d been given a hot dose.

Sam starts his car and it explodes. But, the car had a metal plate under the driver’s seat and the dynamite was in the wrong place anyway. After a few months, Nicky’s crew were out on bail. The bosses had to make an example of him and his brother, so Dominick was beaten to death with baseball bats. Nicky was beaten and still breathing when they buried him.

After the Tangiers, big corporations took over Las Vegas. They tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the Pyramids? Junk bonds.

In the end, Sam ended up right where he started. He could still pick winners and he could still make money for all kinds of people back home. And why mess up a good thing?

(adapted from a true story)

Starring Robert De Niro. Joe Pesci. Sharon Stone. Rated 18. Dir Martin Scorsese. Released in the UK 1995. Runtime 2hrs 58mins

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Ad teaches & gives speeches on his MH struggle + recovery at institutions right across the world. (Movie Sushi pieces contain spoilers)