High Stakes is a Drama programme and has been classified a 15 certificate.
This documentary series is presented to the viewer by John Inverdale. The aim of the series is to track the dramatic growth of legal gambling over the last 50 years. It focuses on how gambling has been transformed from an illegal and, to many at the time, immoral activity, into something which is respectable, accesible and very big business.
Americans wager more on legal gambling - some $600 billion annually - than they spend on food on the food they eat. In Britain alone, over £42 billion is wagered each year, while 18 million Australians spend $12 billion a year gambling.
With unique access to casinos across three continents, "High Stakes" features gamblers from Britain, America and Australia - the winners and the losers - across half a century of gambling. It talks to those running today's games and those who used to run them - from the gambling bosses of organised crime to the "suits" running today's "Disneylands with dice". It also features those addicted gamblers who can't break the "habit".
The series looks at how governments themselves entered the luck business and the programmes examine what the future holds for societies keen to foster a culture of chance.
"Gambling is the bread and butter of the organisation," mobster Henry Hill once said,
At the turn of the last century, gambling was widespread but illegal. It was associated with sinful behaviour, condemned as a "national evil". With the end of Prohibition, gambling became the Mob's most important source of income.
The [rogramme talks to the gambling bosses of organised crime about their legal and illegal gambling business; about their own gambling habits; about how they ran illegal casinos and enforced gambling debts; and about how they fixed races.
It examines why people gamble - whether professional gambler, priest, or those playing Russian Roulette; enters the secret world of the high roller, the winners and the losers; examines the effort the gaming industry puts into wooing and then keeping their customers - from "comps" to "cuddling"; and films with those prepared to take on the casinos by using skill and ingenuity, from distinguished scientists to the world memory champion.
In the second edition "Easy Money". By the 70's, the gaming industry was making efforts to shrug off its illegal origins and in America, Howard Hughes - the reclusive American billionaire - had replaced the mob as the biggest owner of casinos in Las Vegas.
John will talk to Hughes's man in Vegas and members of his Mormon entourage about "the man who owned Vegas". The programme features the second wave of high-rollers from the oil-rich Middle East. It tells he story of London's (often dirty) casino wars and reveals how, in the end, everybody lost out.
As gambling became industrialised through the advent of large scale slot-machine operations, High Stakes talks to the real characters behind the movie "Casino", starring Robert DeNiro. It also features the true story of the mob's "las hurrah" in Vegas, told from all sides: the mobsters, the casino managers and the law-enforcers.
Running Time: 90 minutes (approx)
Classification: 15 Certificate
Database last updated: Today at 13:36