Like many of you, COVID-19 mandates have made me more reliant on at-home forms of entertainment. For better or worse, the one I have gravitated to most has been streaming services—the ability to watch new and old movies or episodic programming at my own pace has proven addictive. The variety of options to view is truly breathtaking, and I have found myself re-watching shows I had originally viewed a decade earlier (HBO’s Rome and Deadwood) or during my childhood (Barney Miller), as well as perusing new series that I missed the first time around (Netflix’s Berlin Babylon and SYFY’s The Expanse) and first-run movies that bypassed the theater (The Old Guard and Greyhound).
Surprisingly, some of the content I’ve observed featured plots in which a casino plays a major role. Not surprisingly, these portrayals are far from kind.
For example, the series Ozark on Netflix features a seemingly typical American family that, against their will (kinda), gets involved in money laundering for a Mexican drug drug cartel. Their primary vehicle to accomplish the laundering—a Missouri riverboat casino, the gaming license for which they procure through a combination of bribery and intimidation. What follows are a series of over-the-top plot twists involving local mobs, FBI investigations and a host of other actions that give little more than a wink and a nod to everything I’ve ever heard about licensing investigations and procedures as well as anti-money laundering practices.
But Ozark is merely an amuse bouche for the casino nonsense meal featured in the most recent season of Amazon’s legal drama Goliath. Oh, where to begin… the grim portrayal of a California tribal casino and its denizens? The resort staff that spikes the drinks of certain customers? The casino management’s involvement with a secret water tunnel that is leading to drought throughout a California valley? Or, the piece de resistance, the secret underground ceremonial chamber where the Native American casino manager mixes designer hallucinogenics for the facility’s founding high rollers?
In all seriousness, I understand that the above examples are television shows meant to entertain. Still it’s distressing that in many movies and TV fare, casinos are usually painted in an absolutely terrible and sinister light.
It’s a script that needs to be flipped.