Beneath the glitz and glamour of twinkly lights, flashy slot machines, and free drinks, casinos are built on a bedrock of mathematics that’s engineered to slowly bleed patrons of their cash. But for years mathematically inclined people have tried to turn the tables by using their knowledge of probability and game theory to exploit weaknesses in a system designed to cheat them.

While the seedy backroom gambling parlors of the movies still exist (and crime does occur around casinos), the overwhelming majority of casino patrons enjoy a safe, clean environment in which to eat, watch live or closed-circuit entertainment, play games and, potentially, win money. Moreover, casinos can stimulate local economies by creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and attracting tourism.

In fact, gambling is so widespread in America that it’s almost considered socially acceptable. And while for some it can be a pathological addiction, for most it’s simply a form of recreation that allows them to enjoy the thrill of risk-taking in a safe, regulated environment.

Casino is perhaps the most visceral film from director Martin Scorsese. And while its scenes of violence (the torture of De Niro’s character with a vice, Joe Pesci’s murder by a car bomb) are disturbing, they are all very believable and reflect the real-life violence that is often associated with Las Vegas casinos. The movie is also a gripping drama of avarice, treachery and betrayal. And Sharon Stone’s performance as Ginger McKenna is outstanding.