Anyone can look at an annual report and figure out how much gaming revenue different properties are generating—if you want to take the coward’s way out. But what we’d rather know is who was raking in more dough, Rick Blaine or Montgomery Burns? The mobsters behind the Tangiers or James Caan and his Montecito?
We examined seven fictional gambling halls in an effort to put a peg on revenues. Our methodology was to use available data from the UNLV Center for Gaming Research and apply win per unit per day figures—normalized for average hold percentage to try to neutralize year-to-year fluctuations—to gaming offerings, adjusted for 2013 U.S. dollars. We also tried to take context into account.
Mr. Burns’ Casino, for example, is the only game in town in Springfield. We know that casinos with less competition tend to have a higher slot hold, but they’re also doing less total handle. Or in the case of Rick’s Café Americain, baccarat and roulette would have been more popular in a wartime French colony than craps, but European roulette was single zero—much better for the player.
We also didn’t include casinos explicitly based on real-life properties. The Bellagio of Ocean’s Eleven is still the Bellagio, and Moe Green was making his bones at the Flamingo, according to the original Godfather script. Revenue figures are for gaming only. We’re not adding in entertainment and food, and we’re not accounting for overhead, asset depreciation or employee pensions. We’re frivolous, not masochistic.
Twin Peaks, 1990
Main assets: One roulette wheel, one craps table, two blackjack tables, three slot machines.
Annual revenue: $1,662,590.
Annual revenue (1990): $850,037 ($1,062,547 Canadian).
The skinny: The annual take of less than $1.7 million makes this the smallest revenue generator on our list, but the underground Canadian casino has a couple of things going for it. First, Ben Horne was the only owner, and management was confined to Blackie O’Reilly. Second, it must’ve catered to a reasonably affluent crowd. When Agent Cooper sits to play blackjack, he plays with more than $5,000—not bad money considering Coop’s onerous pie-and-coffee budget.
Other assets: An even bigger draw than the tables and bar were the 12 to 15 prostitutes who populated the brothel.
Other liabilities: Paying off Mounties to turn a blind eye.
Boardwalk Empire, 1920
Main assets: One roulette table, one craps table, one blackjack table, one faro table.
Annual revenue: $1,902,257.
Annual revenue (1921): $145,421.
The skinny: Lolly Steinman is the owner and operator of this small parlor on the second story of an Atlantic City townhouse, but he has Nucky Thompson in with him as an “investor” who takes a cut and provides protection. Arnold Rothstein went on a tear, racking up a $60,000 win in one day, necessitating Thompson’s intervention to cut off the high-roller, lest he clean out the small operation.
Other assets: Steinman had a great provider of bootleg hooch in Thompson, which helped keep the wheels greased, so to speak.
Other liabilities: Unfortunately, he had to give out booze to keep customers happily gambling, and when the sauce was scarce it was liable to kill business.
Rick’s Café Americain
Main assets: One craps table, two roulette tables, two baccarat tables, three poker tables.
Annual revenue: $2,380,125.
Annual revenue (1941): $149,425.
The skinny: Like Lolly’s, Rick’s was an illegal casino run fairly openly, though German collaborators weren’t welcome. With entertainment options in Casablanca seemingly limited, Rick’s boasted a full house nightly. But all the expatriates in political limbo who had enough money to flee their countries in the first place found themselves against the wall by ’41, because even expensive jewelry couldn’t fetch much on the black market.
Other assets: Rick Blaine had access to fine Champagne, presumably expensive food and a killer piano player. He did well enough to continue paying his staff for weeks even when the operation was shut down.
Other liabilities: A weakness for telling desperate young romantics where to bet on a fixed roulette wheel; allowing Capt. Renault to win, even though he’d still shut the place down when shocked—shocked—to find gambling there.
Mr. Burns’ Casino
The Simpsons, 1993
Main assets: 150 quarter slots, three blackjack tables, two craps tables, two money wheels.
Annual revenue: $9,409,706.
Annual revenue (1993): $5,806,996.
The skinny: Despite an atrocious marketing team that let Mr. Burns design the logo, the casino must have fared well. It got Marge Simpson hooked on gambling after her first pull on a slot machine. At only $9 million a year in revenue, it seems like this would be a minor holding in the Burns empire. However, its possible profits from the casino funded genetic engineering research into creating dogs that shoot bees when they bark.
Other assets: The Flamboyant Magic of Gunter and Ernst had a line well out the showroom door; the Concrete & Asphalt Expo ’93 would have brought in valuable convention business; and Gerry Cooney was a celebrity face to welcome guests.
Other liabilities: Krusty’s Midnight Show was a flop (signature bit: “Herpes, herpes bo-berpes”); Robert Goulet was a no-show after the casino paid him up front; and Jim Nabors couldn’t have been cheap to keep cryogenically frozen.
Las Vegas, 2004
Main assets: 150 slot machines, 14 blackjack tables, one roulette table, two craps tables.
Annual revenue: $21,323,312.
Annual revenue (2004): $17,202,607.
The skinny: Although the pilot was shot at Mandalay Bay and the Montecito was modeled after it, a behind-the-scenes feature for Las Vegas reveals the casino set was only 20,000 square feet, making it tiny for a Strip property.
Other assets: Vibe dining forerunner Mystique; the irresistible charm of James Caan.
Other liabilities: The bomb that ripped through the joint at the end of Season 2, requiring the place to be rebuilt.
Casino Royale, 1953
Main assets: 17 roulette tables, 11 baccarat (punto banco) tables, two boule tables, five trente et quarante tables, five chemin de fer tables. (Estimated—because Royale-les-Eaux was based on the Casino de Monte Carlo in the pre-slots era—we can guess about 40 tables to the real casino’s current 35. The boule tables were described as only breaking even, so we know there wouldn’t have been many. While chemin de fer was the main event, the punto banco version of baccarat was also popular.)
Annual revenue: $62,228,828.
Annual revenue (1953): $7,095,949 (or in French francs, 1,632,970,000).
The skinny: When Bond sat down for his big chemin de fer match with Le Chiffre in Ian Flemming’s debut novel (the 2006 film version only offers us a look at one absurdly high-stakes poker table in the casino), they each have about 25 million francs with which to do battle in this baccarat version contested between players. That works out to just under a million in 2013 U.S. dollars each. Their climactic hand—a 32 million franc bet Le Chiffre makes that Bond accepts—is described as the biggest in the casino’s history. But because Bond won, the casino wouldn’t have earned its 5 percent commission, about $28,000 in one hand alone. That season offered the “highest gambling in Europe this summer.” When Bond first arrived, he won 3 million francs in two days at roulette, and that while trying to blend in. So no hoi polloi allowed. Roulette at the modern Monte Carlo accounts for 70 percent of gaming revenues there.
Other assets: Luxury hotel, fine dining.
Other liabilities: Win a big bet against the wrong guy and there’s a very real chance you end up strapped to a chair with no seat, getting your undercarriage pummeled.
Main assets: More than 900 slots, several pits of tables, poker and the first sportsbook of its kind at the time.
Annual revenue: $129,710,000.
Annual revenue (1973): $24,595,980.
The skinny: Casino was filmed at the Riviera in 1994, which generated $82.1 million in gaming revenue that year. The Tangiers is referred to as a hundred-million-dollar empire in the papers, and Ace Rothstein himself says, “I got a hundred million a year goin’ through the place,” but it’s possible he meant in handle and not in win. Because otherwise, even with baccarat player K.K. Ichikawa dropping a million in a session, there’s no way Rothstein could have hit a number that big with the casino floor as it was presented onscreen. Especially not with the monster skim going out of the count room.
Other assets: Another Siegfried & Roy stand-in, this time as “Jonathan and David”; the morale boost that having Don Rickles on staff provides you.
Other liabilities: Mannerless cowboys, thieving wives, treacherous friends and that massive skim winging its way to Kansas City.