There’s something about walking into a casino that makes it feel like a slice of heaven. The bright lights, the slot sounds of pennies dropping (even though they stopped using real coins long ago) and scented air all play on our senses to create a euphoric environment that will keep us coming back. This isn’t by accident. It’s actually based on the theories of a man named Herman Friedman who wrote a book titled “Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition” in the 90s. He figured that if casinos could get people into their doors and then make them stay, the profits would add up. Today many resorts use his design layout to keep players gambling as much as possible.

This movie is a step-up from the previous Martin Scorsese mafia film, Goodfellas. The story is more linear and stable and there are fewer moments of interest trailing off. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci give their trademark excellent performances, with the latter displaying a menace that far exceeds his physical frame.

While most movies depict Las Vegas as a place of opulence, neon signs and weekend bus trips this one digs deeper and lays bare the city’s past ties with organized crime. It is a well-researched account of the underbelly of the town with tendrils reaching into politics, unions, the Chicago mob and even the Teamsters. This is all wrapped up with a great cast, especially Sharon Stone who totally owns the film as blonde hustler Ginger McKenna. James Woods and Vinny Vella also impress.