Martin Scorsese’s 1996 film, Casino, is one of the greatest movies made about Las Vegas. More than 20 years after its release, it’s still remembered—and some of the locations still exist.
Many films have been made about Las Vegas over the past two decades, but Martin Scorsese’s Casino is one of the greatest. Based on a non-fiction book by Nicholas Pileggi, it looks at the rise and fall of the mob in Las Vegas through three people—mob-connected odds wizard Lefty Rosenthal, his wife Geri (a former showgirl and hustler), and Tony Spilotro (a mafia enforcer who began as Lefty’s best friend and became his worst enemy).
Lefty was part of the mob’s team at the Stardust and ran the casino from behind the scenes. A massive raid in 1976 revealed skimming and other malfeasance, as well as an affair between Geri and Tony.
In Casino, Lefty, Geri, and Tony eventually became Ace, Geri, and Nicky—played by Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci respectively. Stone took home a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for the film.
Unlike many other movies about Vegas, it was shot almost entirely in Vegas. Locals had background roles and bit parts, and many still tell stories about the shoot decades later. The Riviera, whose gaming floor stood in for the fictional Tangiers, was closed and imploded in 2017, but quite a few of the original locations still exist, even if they have changed a bit.
Bar, American, $$$
Spot: The oldest free-standing bar in Clark County, Atomic Liquors has been pouring since 1952. Several years ago the bar was renovated, adding a craft beer menu and patio, but maintaining the bar’s original vibe. Scene: The Atomic was where an unfortunate thug mouths off to Ace, thus provoking the wrath of Nicky, who savagely beats the man to the ground. “Is that a little girl? Is that a little girl I hear crying?”
Spot: The Hartland Mansion hosts parties, shows, corporate events and, of course, weddings. Since the 1970s, the mansion’s Victorian façade, curved staircases, huge pool and black-and-white tile floors make it a fairytale-like setting for any big day. Scene: Ace hosts a lavish party, at which the stunning Geri charms everyone from bus boys to the country club set. Ace, unsurprisingly, becomes jealous.
Spot:Kitchen at Atomic is attached to the nearby Atomic Liquors and has a similarly-excellent beer list and solid cocktail selection. Dishes include prime rib dip, surf and turf, and hazelnut ice cream sandwiches. Scene: Atomic was originally a gas station. In that incarnation, it was the site of a meetup between two wiseguys before wiretaps send everything to hell.
Spot:Main Street Station is a Victorian-themed hotel and casino known for its collection of interesting antiques. The Triple 7 brewery and restaurant is known for microbrews, burgers, and happy hour. Scene:Casino opens with Ace Rothstein’s car exploding in an attempted hit. The actual event occurred not far away at what was then Tony Roma’s restaurant on East Sahara Avenue—the building is now a Hustler store. However, the Scorsese version was shot outside the more photogenic Main Street Station.
Spot: Located in the Plaza Hotel & Casino, this steakhouse is the dominion of former mob lawyer and Las Vegas Mayor (and Bombay Sapphire spokesman) Oscar Goodman. Oscar’s Steakhouse specializes in cocktails and red meat, with dishes like Crazy Phil’s Onion Soup and Benny’s House Made Ricotta. Scene: The view through the glass dome has changed, but the restaurant is still recognizable as the one where Ginger lunches with a friend and later has an over-dinner argument with Ace. Oscar Goodman was actually the attorney for the real-life Ace, Ginger, and Nicky, and has a cameo in the film counseling Ace and Ginger on a divorce.
Spot: The restaurant end of the Peppermill is a pink-and-purple-toned diner that serves massive plates of diner food. The Fireside Lounge is centered around a bubbling firepit, where you can sip a Mai Tai or Champagne Cocktail and dig the Vegas-ness. Scene: Ace and Ginger are on a date early in their relationship. They sit by the firepit, he gives her a pin and then $100 for power room tips.
Spot: Classic Italian dining since 1982, Piero’s is a slice of old Vegas, from the chilled Martinis to the scallopini Milanese. On weekends, Pia Zadora swings through the American songbook in the lounge. Scene: Piero’s stands in for the real-life Leaning Tower, a popular pizza joint that was owned by Spilotro. In the movie, Piero’s/Leaning Tower is most present in the scene where Ginger storms into Nicky’s restaurant and demands that he whack Ace.