The Simpsons holds a special place in the hearts of many for the show’s uniquely hilarious spin on family dynamics and its scathing satire. The town of Springfield undertakes many zany schemes over the course of the show’s seasons, from building a monorail to re-introducing prohibition. Among these is the occasion when the Springfielders decide to legalise gambling and build a casino on the town’s waterfront.
The episode $pringfield (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) was part of the fifth season of The Simpsons, an era many believe to be the show’s peak years. It was originally broadcast in December 1993, and the episode offered a fun portrayal of the world of casinos at that time. In those days, the idea of online casinos would have been almost unheard of, and there was little opportunity to play blackjack online, or any other casino games. Gambling was confined to brick-and-mortar casinos, and the episode tries to capture that Las Vegas-style atmosphere.
At the beginning of the episode, Springfield’s citizens meet to discuss how the town can improve its economy. The idea of legalising gambling and building a casino is offered as a way to bring more money Springfield’s way. When even Marge Simpson, famous for opposing anything that could remotely be seen as immoral, sees the benefits of building a casino, the town rejoices.
In order to tighten his ‘stranglehold on this dismal town’, Mr. Burns agrees to fund the building of the casino, and even designs it himself, giving it the catchy name, Mr. Burns’ Casino. Homer Simpson even gets transferred from the nuclear power plant to fulfil his ‘lifelong dream’ of becoming a Blackjack dealer. Naturally, Homer’s blithering incompetence means he is just as bad a Blackjack dealer as he is a nuclear safety inspector, although he becomes a favourite amongst the casino’s gamblers for his tendency to bust, allowing all players to win.
Mr Burns’ Casino flourishes, hiring former professional boxer Gerry Cooney as a greeter, and booking Robert Goulet to perform, although Goulet gets waylaid by Bart Simpson to perform in his treehouse instead. Homer is oblivious to his incompetence as a blackjack dealer and can’t see that the gamblers love him only because they can exploit him to win.
The style of casino portrayed in the episode is very evocative of Las Vegas, with bright flashing lights all around, and even a circus tiger performing tricks for the crowd’s amusement. It is a fun exposition of all that is good about legalised gambling, with the town’s inhabitants enjoying splashing their cash on everything from Slots and Blackjack to Craps and Roulette.
However, in classic Simpsons style, the episode also touches on a more serious point amidst the hilarity. Marge Simpson, after absently putting a single quarter in a slot machine and winning the jackpot, develops something of an obsession with Slots. This ultimately leads to Marge forgetting to help Lisa with her costume for the school’s geography pageant, meaning Homer has to help her instead, leading to typically disastrous results.
In a fit of passion and sorrow, Homer storms the casino to rescue Marge from the gambling monster’s ‘neon claws’. As he does so Marge realises the error of her ways, and in a sweet ending Homer forgives her for getting too caught up in the lights and glamour. In the end, the show emphasises the idea that while gambling is a fun and relaxing pastime, and casinos are a great way for a town to boost its economy while its inhabitants win some cash, promises made to family should always take precedence.