7 Completely True Events The Movie Casino Is Based On

Robert De Niro in Casino movie close up looking at red dice
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The movie Casino was a 1995 release directed by Martin Scorsese. It starred Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone. The plot was inspired by the real-life story of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal who managed the Fremont, Hacienda, and Stardust casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago mob back in the 1970s and 1980s. But just how much of the movie Casino was based on real life events?

Robert De Niro & Sharon Stone in Casino movie standing in front of private jet
Image Copyright: Universal Studios/moviestillsdb.com

It goes without saying that the storyline of Casino borrowed and changed some details from the real-life account of Rosenthal. However, there are a number of scenes that remain true to reality. Let’s take a look at those scenes that were too good to ignore for the script writers.

The main characters were based on real-life counterparts

Every main character in Casino is based on a real-life individual. Sam “Ace” Rothstein is based on Frank Rosenthal, Ginger McKenna is based on Geri McGee, Nicky Santoro is based on Anthony Spilotro and even Phillip Green is based on Allen Glick. The similarities are everywhere and they don’t just end with the character traits.

Rosenthal genuinely did not possess a gaming licence

Yes, true story. The real-life Rosenthal did not possess a gaming licence. You would have thought that the scene was added for dark comedy value but no.

Due to his links to organized crime, the mob knew that it would be too risky to try and get a licence for Rosenthal. To get around the issue, the mob gave Rosenthal less high-profile titles at the casinos he worked at. These included entertainment director, food and beverage manager and bell boy. OK, that last one isn’t strictly accurate but you get the idea.

This deception comes to a head in a heated courtroom scene where Rothstein gives us a very public glimpse into how corrupt the legal process was at the time. Incredibly, Rosenthal was involved in a very similar court case and outburst.

Rosenthal did survive a car bombing

The saying goes that sometimes life is far more dramatic than art. That is certainly the case with Rosenthal. The moment when Rothstein survives a car bombing is actually based on real-life events that occurred in the life of Rosenthal. How did Rosenthal come out of such an ordeal alive? Well, a metal stabilization plate located underneath the driver’s seat saved his ass… literally. Bet he used that story in his after-dinner speeches for years after!

A former casino executive was hunted down and killed in his home in Costa Rica

There are a number of murders shown in Casino and a few of these did happen in real-life. One of the most infamous murders was one former casino executive meeting his grisly end after being hunted down and murdered at his home in Costa Rica.

Sam Rothstein in casino movie sitting behind desk shrugging
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ginger and nicky in casino movie kissing
Image Copyright: Universal Studios/moviestillsdb.com

Geri and Spilotro did have an affair

The love triangle between Rothstein, McKenna, and Santoro in the movie plays a pivotal role in the demise of a couple of those characters. In real-life, it is alleged that Rosenthal’s ex-wife McGee and Spilotro did engage in an affair. Did it have the same repercussions as in the movie? Unlikely. It was still severely frowned upon by the mob.

The death of Geri was caused by a drug overdose

One of the most tragic moments in Rosenthal’s life was the death of his ex-wife Geri from a drug overdose. This is portrayed accurately in Casino with Stone’s McKenna also succumbing to a similar fate in a motel at the end of the movie.

Anthony Spilotro was killed alongside his brother and the pair were buried in a cornfield in Indiana

In arguably the most iconic death of gangster movie history, Pesci’s Santoro and his brother, Dominick, are ambushed by Frank “Frankie” Marino after the car bombing of Rothstein. In an act of retaliation by the mob, suspecting that Santoro was behind the bombing and was beginning to get out of control, Santoro and his brother are buried alive in a cornfield. This did in fact happen to Santoro’s real-life counterpart Anthony Spilotro. He and his brother were buried in a cornfield in Indiana… by mobsters… allegedly.