A casino is a place where champagne glasses clink and tourists mingle, creating an amazing buzz that makes it almost impossible to not be swept up in the rush of trying your luck at poker or roulette. It’s also a place where people can socialize over drinks and snacks, creating an even more lively atmosphere. The combination of all these factors, plus the fact that it’s hard to tell whether or not your lucky streak will hold up, is why casinos are so popular.

Casinos are known for their bright lights, the ding of slot machines and the sound of pennies dropping (even though that’s something that stopped long ago) because they are designed to play on our senses and trigger excitement. They are also designed to keep you playing and betting by offering inducements like free spectacular entertainment, transportation and elegant living quarters for big bettors, and reduced-fare transportation and casino food for lesser bettors.

Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone shine as Ace and Ginger in Casino, but the film’s dozens of sub-plots, tangent stories and brilliant side characters are what really make it work. James Woods is hilarious as a lowlife con-man and Vinny Vella is a hoot as the long-suffering Artie Piscano. But it’s Stone who owns the movie and she should have won an Oscar for her performance. No other movie has so effectively portrayed what Las Vegas is all about. It’s not a pretty picture, but it is fascinating and Casino does an outstanding job of telling its story.