From state lotteries to Mississippi paddleboats to Indian casinos, America's obsession with the false promise of gambling can be seen everywhere. Americans spend over $50 billion a year on legal gambling alone, a phenomenal growth for this once maligned business. DREAMLAND takes a sharp but disarming approach in examining the romance of gambling, and reveals the decidedly unromantic reality.
Following several full-time residents of Las Vegas over a two-year period, DREAMLAND shows the cityscape beyond the grandiose casino-hotels on the strip. It is a world of smaller, dingy gambling halls and countless gambling arcades that survive throughout Las Vegas. Among the locals that patronize these casinos, many struggle daily with compulsion and self-impoverishment while walking the tenuous line between dreams and denial.
We meet middle-class retirees for whom gambling brings back childhood; working people who 'look for the streaks' and sometimes crash as hard as drug addicts; casino dealers, born and raised in Vegas, who find that they too are vulnerable to the addiction; and professional gamblers who wouldn't wish their life on anyone. And we meet Lou Gerard, a retired tailor from Los Angeles.
Gerard moved to Las Vegas, with its cheap rent and complementary meals, to do a little harmless gambling. His approach to gambling appears reasonable, and his exuberance is obvious whenever he enters his favorite place, Benny Binion's Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas. But soon Gerard finds himself contending with his compulsion, having to work more and more on the side to make up his losses, and it becomes clear that he is battling loneliness and mortality as much as the odds.
A penetrating look at compulsive gambling, DREAMLAND draws parallels between it and other addictions, showing how gambling is used to avoid pain, loneliness and distress by giving the gambler a fleeting sense of control and happiness. Without judgment and condemnation, the film uses frank interviews compassionately; creating a lingering image that evokes the contradictory reality behind America's high stakes pastime.
"DREAMLAND offers perhaps the most personal assessment to date of the elements of problem gambling. It should be recommended to students of the subject but also to therapists and to the victims of problem gambling who are struggling to find the answers to guide them toward recovery. The film yields great insights into motivations for gambling, coping mechanisms for inevitable losses, and the quest for finding "solutions" for gambling problems [and] puts flesh and bone, muscle and blood on the academic treatments given to this important topic. This film is a vitally needed vehicle that can bring a needed dose of reality about problem gambling to wide audiences. I recommend it for all." - Journal of Gambling Issues
"Recommended!" - The Institute for Problem Gambling
"Intriguing... a realistic look into the daily surroundings and struggles of the Vegas population. If you are looking for a good tool to highlight problem gambling... this is a great film choice." - Massachusetts Council on Problem Gambling News
"A penetrating look at how compulsive gambling acts like other addictions. Filmmaker Lisanne Skyler takes a sharp but disarming approach to examining the romance of gambling and the reality behind it..." - San Francisco Monthly
"DREAMLAND lifts the gaudy rug of Las Vegas and looks at the creepie-crawlers." - San Francisco Chronicle
"A candid, uncompromising look at compulsive gambling and the effect of neighborhood casinos on Las Vegas. Not since Martin Scorsese's CASINO has the naked truth about Las Vegas been captured so perfectly on screen." - Las Vegas CityLife