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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.

Also available in a 57 minute version

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