"No one stays at the top forever."
Until the early 1980s, The Mafia had a huge stake in Las Vegas. But while they ran the casinos, they didn't run the town. They had to use fronts to get their men in to run everything. One of these men was Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, who unofficially ran three casinos for the bosses in Chicago. His work, and involvement with the fall of organized crime in Vegas, was the basis for this film.
The film is loosely based on the years between when he started running the casinos, and when he play at mobile casino. Although the film isn't an exact account of what happened in that time (a lot of that is more Artistic License than Did Not Do the Research), it does provide a good overview of it.
It also got a lot of criticism for being, basically, Goodfellas IN VEGAS!, largely due to Martin Scorsese directing it the same way, Nicholas Pileggi adapting again one of his books, and for some characters having a really close resemblance to similar characters in the last movie - though, in that respect, both men Pesci played really existed and acted even worse in real life. Being both significantly longer and more slowly paced didn't help either.
But on its own, it's definitely not bad. Just be prepared for some Padding at points.
- Abusive Parents: Yeah, tying your daughter to the bed while she's asleep and leaving her alone so that you can visit your lover would qualify.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Ginger
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: For a few minutes, the film gives Frank narration duties.
- And That's Terrible: The ending tries to paint the corporatisation of Las Vegas as a terrible thing, like the city losing its soul. This is after three hours of showing us people being beaten to death on behalf of old Las Vegas.
- Anti-Villain: Ace. Anywhere else in the country Sam is a bookie hassled by cops, but in Las Vegas all Ace wants to do is to make an honest living by running a legal casino for his mafia bosses back home in Chicago. But in doing so he is not above using ruthless methods (such as threatening to break a man's hand, or possibly cut it off). He's still a pretty decent guy overall, and compared to the degenerates and sociopaths he's surrounded by he's practically a saint.
- Asshole Victim: Ginger getting a deliberate drug overdose. The Santoro brothers Buried Alive by Frank Marino and company.
- Ax Crazy: Nicky.
- As with Tommy DeVito, was disturbingly based on a real person.
- Badass Decay: Justified and discussed In-Universe. As Nicky gets more into drugs he begins to lose his edge, and Ace even remarks at one point that it took Nicky three punches to knock somebody out; when he was clean, it would have only taken one.
- Unreliable Voiceover: The three punches don't even knock the guy out, and it's Nicky's brother who has to finish the job.
- Based on a True Story: The story takes a few liberties, of course. For example, Artie didn't die of a heart attack while being arrested.
- Batter Up: The sad, sad fate of Nicky and his brother.
- Big Fancy House: The Rothstein's; it's on a golf course and so Seventies it hurts.
- Black Comedy: What humour there is in the film is very dark.
- Book Ends: Ace ends the movie right back where he started.
- Buried Alive The Santoro brothers at the end.
- The Cameo: Frankie Avalon, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Jerry Vale, and future Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.
- The Casino: Of course.
- Chewing the Scenery: In the second half of the movie, Ginger degenerates into this. It is scary.
- Cliffhanger Copout: He didn't get out of the cockadoodie car!
- Cluster F-Bomb: The entire movie. In fact, it currently holds the (dubious) honor of having the second most F-Bombs in American movie history. 398, according the The Other Wiki, a classy 2.23 FPM (fucks per minute). This naturally leads to some funny Unusual Euphemisms when the film is edited for television and ironically it sometimes adds a new derogatory twist; e.g You Jew money lover you!
- FUCK ME!? FUCK ME, YOU MOTHERFUCKER!? FUCK MY MOTHER!?
- Consummate Professional: Ace. The reason he gets promoted to manager; he is a money machine that "sleeps and breaths gambling", works 18 hours a day and cannot abide sub-par competence.
- Control Freak: Ace.
Ace: From now on, put an equal amount of blueberries in each muffin.
Chef: Do you know how long that's going to take?
Ace: I don't care. An equal amount in each muffin.
- Cool Car: No matter what year it currently is over the course of the film, Sam will be driving a period-correct Cadillac Eldorado. A car that perfectly reflects the opulent, flashy gaudiness of Sam's surroundings and the life he leads within them.
- Corrupt Politician: The chairmen of the Gaming Control Board investigation, including a Commisioner and a Senator who enjoys free VIP treatment in the Casino but starts clashing with Sam after a nepotism issue.
- The senator (seen accepting Sam's "gift" of a prostitute earlier) is meant to be "Dirty" Harry Reid, who really does have mob ties, and who is currently still a senator for Nevada.
- Costume Porn: All the fancy clothes of course.
- Judging from his wardrobe, Sam Rothstein wanted to be The Joker when he grew up.
- Cowboy: County Commissioner Pat Webb (L.Q. Jones). It seems his ilk are running the whole state of Nevada.
Ace: Anybody with cowboy boots is a county commissioner or related to a county commissioner.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Ace fires a young employee of his just for saying his wife is beautiful
- Darker and Edgier: Casino is far more violent and downbeat than Goodfellas. The film has almost no lighter moments, and its killings are far more stomach churning.
- Death by Irony: Meta example; Pesci's character is beaten to death by an actor he'd either viciously beaten or killed in two previous movies.
- Determinator: Nicky, oh so much.
- According to Ace:
Ace: No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead.
- According to Nicky himself:
Nicky: I think in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is that I do. For instance tomorrow morning I'll get up nice and early, take a walk down over to the bank and... walk in and see and, uh... if you don't have my money for me, I'll... crack your fuckin' head wide-open in front of everybody in the bank. And just about the time that I'm comin' out of jail, hopefully, you'll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I'll split your fuckin' head open again. 'Cause I'm fuckin' stupid. I don't give a fuck about jail. That's my business. That's what I do.
- Disposing of a Body:
- Nicky gives a very insightful lecture on the subject
Sam It's in the desert where lots of the town's problems are solved.
Nicky Got a lot of holes in the desert... and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. Except you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you're talking about a half hour or 45 minutes of diggin'. And who knows who`s gonna be comin' along in that time? Before you know it, you gotta dig a few more holes. You could be there all fuckin' night.
- In the end, Nicky provides a graphical self-demonstration too
- Disproportionate Retribution: Nicky repeatedly stabs a guy in the neck with his own pen after the guy tells Ace to 'shove it up his ass' when Ace politely tries to return it to him. Horrific enough by itself, but keep in mind that Nicky is not even responding to an insult directed at him.
- Disaster Dominoes: "The Feds had all the pieces they needed. Everybody began to tumble, one after the other, like dominoes: Between Piscano complaining on the wire, between Nicky, Ginger, me and my license... We managed to really fuck it all up"
- Distracted by the Luxury: Basically how Ace gets Ginger to marry him.
- The Ditz:
- Ward, who happens to be the cousin of a Commisioner and has a job in the casino because of that ...for a while.
- Piscano, this guy can fuck up a cup of coffee.
- Do You Trust Me?:
- Sam opens an account to his wife and gets asked by a surprised bank manager if he trust his wife, as his deed is very rare in a client.
- Reversed later when Ace asks Ginger, several times "Can I trust you?" . She says yes, but she is lying.
- Drugs Are Bad: Both Nicky and Ginger suffer hard for their drug use.
- The Dragon: Nicky, and he evolves into Dragon with an Agenda
- End of an Age: The end of the film showcases the transition of ownership of Las Vegas from the mob bosses to the corporations. Sam makes clear his disgust of the new Las Vegas, which caters to families instead of gamblers.
Sam: The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today, it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it's like checkin' into an airport. And if you order room service, you're lucky if you get it by Thursday. Today, it's all gone. You get a whale show up with four million in a suitcase, and some twenty-five-year-old hotel school kid is gonna want his Social Security Number. After the Teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds...But in the end, I wound up right back where I started. I could still pick winners, and I could still make money for all kinds of people back home. And why mess up a good thing? And that's that.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Nicky reacts very angrily when Ginger flippantly asks him to get someone to kill Ace; while relations between the two are at a low and he's been considering it himself, the guy was still like a brother to Nicky so he's not going to do it without a lot of thought. It's implied that the car bomb Ace barely survives was a parting gift from Nicky, though, and that he eventually made his mind up.
- Nicky also expresses disgust over "degenerate gamblers". In particular, he chews into one who's let his gambling addiction leave his family broke and unable to pay the bills.
- Again with Nicky: when Ginger says that if she'd taken her and Ace's daughter, Ace would have hunted her down and killed her, Nicky corrects her by saying he would have. "You don't take a man's kid."
- The 'old-timers' capos "don't like any fucking around with the other guys` wives".
- Everybody Smokes / Smoking Is Cool
- Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: A million dollars worth just for Ginger.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Ginger's transition from high class hooker to full-time junkie bitch is marked by her trading in her long hair for a truly ugly 80s mop.
- Eye Scream: The scene with the vise.
- Fan Disservice: The MTV Movie Awards had Pesci and Stone's kiss as the most repulsive kiss of the year! Of course, that's what was intended.
- Fanservice Extra: The senator's hooker, who we watch slip out of her gown in the senator's hotel room. She's Going Commando.
- FBI Agent: Nicky and Sam are under constant surveillance, but the agents don't make a lot of progress. The real bosses are hundreds of miles away, and the Vegas staff go to great lengths to outwit the FBI. At one point, while surveying from a small plane, they run out of gas and have to land on the golf course behind Sam's house.
- Fingore: Don't. Cheat. The. Casino.
- Fixing the Game: The titular casino encounters the occasional cheater. It doesn't end well.
- Friendly Enemy: Nicky has a polite conversation with a local police who doubles as his son's baseball coach.
- Gilligan Cut: "Whatever [new job] he gets, make sure it's quiet." Cue Ace hosting a flamboyant television show "Aces High!!!", with Thus Spake Zarasthustra cued up.
- Girlish Pigtails: Amy, which may have been to highlight that she's innocent in all this.
- Glory Days: Especially the ending.
- Going Commando: The senator's hooker.
- Gold Digger: Ginger. Discussed. Sam thinks he can defy it and change her. He can not
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Nicky Santoro's spectacular temper is a fatal liability which is pivotal to the plot. One of Joe Pesci's best performances.
- Hollywood History:
- For one thing, a lot what happened in the film actually happened outside of Vegas. Given that the film is named Casino and plays the Vegas aesthetic for all it's worth, it's understandable that the filmmakers wanted to keep the action around there. And the movie does allude to things happening elsewhere, such as the mob bosses based in Kansas City.
- Nicky's death was an unintentional example: it was unknown how it really happened during production so the movie simply shows the best theory/rumor of what happened. Ironically, in Real Life, the person that inspired Nicky died very similarly to how Pesci's previous role of Tommy died in Goodfellas
- Honor Before Reason: While firing the incompetent cousin of the County Commissioner may be a proper decission regarding day-to-day operations, Sam refuses to re-acommodate him even in a lower position out of professional ethics when the Commissioner asks him to do so and tells that the gesture would be considered a personal favour. Unsurprisingly, things go sour from there.
- Hookers and Blow
- How We Got Here: The film opens with Sam's car blowing up and he narrates the rest of the film.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- At one point during an argument, Nicky brings up how Ace got a bunch of guys to beat up Ginger's old boyfriend and how Nicky had had to comfort her following this, and how Ace was a jerk for doing this. Ace angrily points out that he conveniently appears to have left out his own role in this matter, since they were Nicky's guys.
- The mob bosses get outraged over the idea that some is skimming off the top of the money that they are skimming off the top of the profits of the casino -- essentially, that someone is daring to steal the money that they are stealing from someone else. Although told that this is just part of the business ("If you hire a guy to steal for you, he's gonna steal a little for himself"), their anger (and greed) ends up partially triggering the downfall of everyone.
- Idiot Ball: One of the mobsters (Piscano) keeps immensely detailed ledgers of every single illegal transaction that occurs in his house, thus enabling the feds to build a watertight case against him and his associates. The narrators lampshade how incredibly dumb this is.
- Interactive Narrator: Nicky, who also gets Killed Mid-Sentence
- Phillip Green, the man the mobsters arranged to be their 'squeaky clean' front man, turns out to be a crook who cheated his partner in a real estate deal, thus bringing a lot of unwanted police attention on them.
- Everybody is punished by his own sins, in conformity to Hollywood morality and Scorsese's Christian upbringing, except... the Mafia Godfathers themselves.
- For all the illegal and immoral activities going on in Las Vegas and inside the Tangiers, it's ultimately only when Sam does something he is entirely justified and right in doing -- firing a stupid, useless employee who doesn't know what he's doing -- that things start to fall apart.
- Jerkass: Just too many people in this movie, but Nicky and Ginger definitely counts.
- Ace himself as well to a lesser extent. He isn't better than everyone else either.
- Karma Houdini:
- The mob bosses, since everybody else pretty much ends up dead, and there's a good chance they won't be going to jail anyways.
- Ace got off pretty easy when compared to Nicky and the others who meet with unfortunate consequences. His sins were much lesser than most of these to begin with and it gets explained because he still is a very good earner.
- Frank Marino is likely promoted to Nicky's position at the end despite being his right-hand in many transgressions and fooled the bosses with some lies.
- Karmic Death: Nicky, viciously beaten along with his brother and dumped into a hole alive, and Ginger, who's possibly murdered via deliberate drug overdose.
- Kill Them All :
- At the end, the bosses are facing charges so everyone connected to the skimming operation is taken care of. Some bosses would rather spare a few, but as Remo puts it "why take a chance?".
- Ginger's and Nicky's life mistakes catch up to them, and Piscano dies of a Heart attack on the spot. Only Ace survives because he is a big earner, too valuable to waste.
- Lady Drunk: Ginger.
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club:
- Nicky, the number one jewel thief of the town opens a jewelry called "The Gold Rush" as a front. It gets bugged pretty quickly.
- It's written on the wall that The Tangiers is mob controlled, the local authorities happily tolerate it as long as the managers stay in line and play ball.
- The Load:
- In the pursuit of his own criminal endeavors, Nicky seriously undermines Rothstein's efforts to run the casino. Unlike the typical Load, Nicky is actually very good at what he does; strong-arming people and pulling heists. It's the fact that he wants to be the Boss of Las Vegas that screws Ace over. For his part, Nicky doesn't really care about how it affects Ace or even his bosses. Overlaps with Poisonous Friend.
- Piscano, the underboss of Kansas City. "A total disaster, this guy could fuck up a cup of coffee". He is supposed to keep the scheme under control but the guy is disgruntled and just talks and complains about the skimming operation all the time... inside his bugged place, to the FBI's rejoice. Oh and he also feels he is been fleeced so he starts an expenses report book. The FBI founds it and it's a blueprint with everybody`s names, addresses, dates, everything. Piscano basically sunk the whole world.
- Loophole Abuse: Ace's criminal record makes him inelegible for a gambling license, but the only thing he has to do is to apply for one. The state law says that he can work in a casino while the application is being processed, so after a while he changes his nominal job; rinse and repeat. Since his corporation is pouring a lot of money into Las Vegas the authorities have no reason to be inquisitive or do things by the book ... Sam gives them reasons later, though.
- Love Redeems: Brutally proved by the fact no one really loves each other and it's a disaster. As Ace narrates as the first lines of the film:
Ace: When you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point? And for a while, I believed, that's the kind of love I had.
- The Mafia: Nicky and all the people Nicky and Sam report to. Notably, the main character, Sam "Ace" Rothstein, isn't a "made man" (formal member) and, being Jewish, isn't even eligible.
- Mafia Princess: Amy, Sam and Ginger's daughter.
- Make an Example of Them:
- Discussed by Sam when he orders the physical punishment of a cheater with a hammer. Ace is rather lenient with his other accomplice, letting him choose between the money plus the hammer or just walking out, a subverted Sadistic Choice if Sam meant to be true to his word. The first cheater is threatened with a saw but ends up 'only' with a 'hammered' hand.
- Remo instructs Nicky to pull no punches to enforce te trope after a mob bar is assaulted. The offender was the vise-guy ...
- The reason why the Santoro brothers are buried alive.
- The Man Behind the Man:
- Multiple levels of this. Green is the official head of the Tangiers Corporation, but he takes orders from Andy Stone, the head of the Teamsters' Pension Fund (which put up the money to buy the casino). Stone in turn takes orders from The Mafia bosses who actually control the Teamsters' Union. Billy Sherbert is the Casino Manager, but he takes all his orders from Ace, who was given that position by Stone, and so on.
- Lampshaded by Ace on the casino security system:
Ace: In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino, the dealers are watching the players. The box men are watching the dealers. The floor men are watching the box men. The pit bosses are watching the floor men. The shift bosses are watching the pit bosses. The casino manager is watching the shift bosses. I'm watching the casino manager. And the eye-in-the-sky is watching us all.
- Manipulative Bastard:
- Lester has Ginger completely wrapped around his finger for much of the movie. However, Ace trumps him as a Magnificent Bastard and easily neutralizes him when he actually confronts him.
- Nicky also seems to be manipulating Ginger in order to get his hands on the millions in jewelery that Ace has entrusted to her.
- For that matter, Ginger isn't adverse to this trope either, being quite willing to turn on the waterworks and the puppy eyes whenever Ace confronts her about anything. The more their marriage breaks down the more savvy he is about this.
- May-December Romance: Possibly Ginger and Ace (he's forty when he proposes), definitely Ginger and Diamond (who's known her since she was fourteen).
- Melodrama: The opening titles, and the last third of the film seem to do this most.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The FBI bugs Piscano's place looking for information about some obscure homicide, they instead find the Casino scheme. Lampshaded by the narration.
- Money to Throw Away: Ginger -- well, someone else's chips anyway.
- Mugging the Monster: Of a sort; the guy who tells Ace to 'shove that pen up your ass' would probably not have been so keen to throw his weight around had he known that Nicky was standing right next to him. And he soon learns his mistake. Boy, does he learn his mistake.
- Mythology Gag: Frank Vincent's character was brutally murdered by Joe Pesci's in two previous Scorsese films. Vincent gets his revenge here.
- Narrators: Ace and Nicky, as well as Nicky's eventual killer.
- Nepotism: Las Vegas apparently runs on this trope. Ace is forced to keep an imbecilic 'local cowboy' hired in a cushy position because his brother-in-law is an influential local civil servant. When he finally gets sick of the guy's incompetence and justifiably fires him, the sky begins to fall in...
- Nice to the Waiter: Nicky abuses the croupiers, who have to take it stoically.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Done to Nicky and Dominick by Frank Marino and company, just before they're both Buried Alive.
- Nothing but Hits:
- The soundtrack, which goes from the late Sixties to the Eighties, is amazing.
- As is the use of Bach's The Passion of St. Matthew in the opening and closing of the film.
- Pants-Free: Sam in his office. Revealed when he moves away from his desk.
- The Pen Is Mightier: Jesus Christ.
- Persona Non Grata: Nicky gets his name in a Black Book and is banned from the casinos. Sam warns him beforehand but Nicky mocks the issue as the book only has two names and one of them is still Al Capone and continues to generate waves. Then he laments, as the ban hurts his operations.
- Pet the Dog:
- Nicky's relationship with his son.
- Ace's relationship with his daughter is also a redeeming characteristic of his as well.
- Also, Frank Marino lies to one of the Mafia bosses to protect Nicky, Ace and Ginger- all the while knowing that he'll be killed as well if the truth is discovered.
- Playing Against Type: Don freaking Rickles in a Scorsese movie? Playing an intimidating mob collaborator?
- Plot-Driven Breakdown: Sam schemes a fake airplane breakdown in order to retain a whale, a high-stakes player and billionaire cheapskate who wins a lot of money in the casino. He returns, and he loses the earnings plus more.
- Posthumous Narration: Given that the first thing we see is Ace -- one of the two primary narrators of the film as a whole -- get blown up by a car bomb, this is a reasonable assumption to make. It's subverted; by freak chance and a Good Bad Bug, Ace survives the bomb and is one of the only characters to survive the whole clusterfuck at the end of the movie. Played with by Nicky, who's own narration is interrupted by his being beaten to death, suggesting he was delivering it up to the point where he died.
- Professional Gambler:
- Pretty in Mink. Loads of furs are worn in this movie. It would be easier to list the ladies in the film who didn't wear fur at one point. Even Amy wears a little white fur jacket for half her screen time.
- Real Person Cameo: Frank Cullotta, the man Frank Marino was based on, appears as one of the Professional Killers sent by the bosses to tie up loose ends at the end of the film.
- Refusal of the Call: Sam is initially reluctant about the offer of running a casino, pointing out good arguments.
- Right Under Their Noses: Early on, we follow an ordinary looking man in a suit walk into the casino's counting room, fill up a briefcase with money and calmly walk out again. The narration informs us that what we've just watched was essentially a casino heist.
- Rule of Glamorous
- Scoundrel Code: Ace Rothstein talks about his soon-to-be wife Ginger following "the Hustlers' Code", which boils down to making sure that she pays off everyone who is in a position to help her carry out her profession as a high-class prostitute, so they have an incentive to do so.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: The reason the incompetent employee Ward is on Sam's payroll. Discussed and ultimately subverted
- Shock and Awe: The casino uses a stun gun to simulate a heart attack on a casino cheater and get him back to the back room for some disincentivizing.
- Shoot Him! He Has a Wallet!: A cop shoots Bernie Blue thinking his sub sandwich wrapped in tinfoil was a gun.
- Show Within a Show: Aces Hiiigh!"
- Skunk Stripe: Nicky develops one as he ages.
- The Smart Guy: Ace is this to the mid-west bosses. The reason he gets promoted to managerial duties.
- Smug Snake:
- Lester Diamond is a spectacularly sleazy version of this.
- The state senator who happily comps free rooms and prostitutes from Sam, only to later to stab him in the back and then try and deny everything to weasel out of it when Sam confronts him is also one of these. The senator is based on Harry Reid, who's still a senator for Nevada and a very influential one at that.
- Spiritual Successor: to Goodfellas, another Scorsese film about mid-level Mafia men which was also based on real events and starred De Niro and Pesci.
- Spiteful Spit: Nicky's brother runs a restaurant and he personally adds some... salival flavour to the sandwiches prepared for the cops.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands:
- Justified, Las Vegas is a virgin territory at first, but Nicky draws so much heat that he manages to attract many kinds of surveillance; wiretapping, lip reading, electronic bugs, car chases, aerial vigilance...
- Nicky is Genre Savvy and gets away implementing anti-surveillance devices and tactics for a while, but he is bested when the Feds put a wire inside an adjacent wall.
- Taking the Kids: Ginger attempts to do this, but she comes back, knowing what could happen.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sam and Nicky start as complementary partners working under the mid-west bosses and mutually beneficial, but after a while their agendas diverge and collide, one simply wants to peacefully rule the casino while the other aims to become the big boss of Las Vegas.
- Trunk Shot: Done when the police finds two corpses inside a car.
- Twisting the Words "I'm the boss".
- Understatement: Remo has a tendency to use euphemisms, mild words and conditional forms when he wants to be imperative or inquires about major problems.
- Lampshaded by Andy Stone
Stone The old man said maybe your friend should give in. And when the old man says "maybe" that's like a papal bull. Not only should you quit, you should run.
- Several characters reiterate that an infidelity could end with everyone involved in it dead, including the ones who cover it up, as this is a big no-no for the old timers. Boss Remo downplays all that in the actual question.
Remo: Frankie, be straight with me; is the little guy fucking the Jew's wife? Because if he is, that could be a problem.
Sam : It's all been arranged just for us to get your money. That`s the truth about Las Vegas. We're the only winners. The players don't stand a chance. [...] In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing. The longer they play, the more they lose. In the end, we get it all
- Later on an incompetent employee is so clueless after a triple jackpot in 20 minutes that he makes Sam wonder if he's just dumb or an accessory to the scam.
Ward: It's a casino. People gotta win sometimes.
Sam: Ward, you're pissing me off. Now you're insuIting my intelligence. [...] The probability on one machine is a million and a half to one, on three machines in a row it's in the billions [...] Get your ass outta here"
- Utopia: "Las Vegas is Paradise on Earth, it`s like a morality car wash. It does for us what Lourdes does for humpbacks and cripples". Sam's activities are not only legitimate but sponsored; he gets to manage a very profitable Casino, be a respected citizen and have a beatiful and socially loved wife. And for Nicky is a virgin territory ripe for his criminal enterprises, he can roam virtually free from the Mid-West mob tutelage and rob people blind.
- Viva Las Vegas: Well, yeah.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Zig-zagged: At first Sam builds an entrepreneurial reputation, is given awards and social recognition, but after a while things go sour and he is surrounded by great media controversy regarding his license problem and his association with Nicky, who is a well-known ruffian that almost lives inside a courthouse by then. As a reaction, Sam starts his own talk-show to make a stand and defend himself and his image. He gets rebued by the wiseguys as this flamboyant crusade draws unwanted attention.
- Villain Protagonist: Ace, Anti-Villain. Nicky, Ax Crazy sociopath.
- Villainous Breakdown: EVERYONE. Ace, Nicky, Ginger, the mob bosses, everyone.
- What the Hell, Villain?
- Sam is admonished by Andy Stone -- on behalf of Remo -- for his extravagant television stunts and his crusade to appeal to the Supreme Court. Nicky reprimands Sam too, as he gets calls from home asking if Sam has gone batshit.
- Nicky gets reprimanded by Sam when the former extorts Sam's banker, who being a square guy is likely going to run for cover to the FBI.
- What Happened to the Mouse??;
- Lester's fate is never shown, he just kinda disappears after he attempts to kidnap Ace's daughter. In the original script, Lester was supposed to be shot in the desert by Nicky as a favor for Sam.
- Frankie mentions that his lie to Remo about Nicky and Ginger could get him killed if the bosses found out. By the end of the movie, there's no way they haven't found out about the affair. It's never stated if the mob bosses punished Frankie for lying about it though his penance might have been having to kill Nicky and Dominic himself.
- Your Cheating Heart: Ginger and Nicky begin having an affair. When Ace finds out, he is less angry than terrified, because if things go sour there's a very real chance that Nicky will kill them both. And because of this, a very real chance that the bosses will kill all of them if they find out:
Remo: Frankie, be straight with me; is the little guy fucking the Jew's wife? Because if he is, that could be a problem.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once everything starts going belly-up, people start getting assassinated. Including Nicky. Inverted with Ace, who specifically notes at the end that he's still alive because he can still make money for the bosses.
- Xanatos Gambit: Nicky pulls a very simple one: If he wins, he collects, if he loses he either doesn't pay or just strong-arms to recover the money. It's implied later that it only works with bookies and underworld people; an alarmed Sam points out that a square guy like a banker is gonna run to the FBI after being threatened by Nicky.
Sam It wasn't very scientific, but it worked [...] What were they going to do, muscle Nicky? Nicky was the muscle.