Star Wars aficionados are salivating at the prospect of the next release in the franchise, Solo: A Star Wars Story, hitting cinemas across the globe towards the end of May. The film will tell the story of how fan favourite Han Solo met his buddy Chewbacca, filling the Star Wars-shaped hole that's been in everyone's life since the release of 2017's epic Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
If you have never experienced a Star Wars film then a) where have you been for the past 30 years? and b) rectify the situation immediately. You can expect adventures in a galaxy far, far away, including a few escapades in casinos – with George Lucas’ unique sci-fi twist on things included, of course. The Last Jedi actually featured a lengthy casino-based sequence that confused and delighted audiences in equal measure, and it is a fantastic way to warm up for the release of the next chapter of the franchise.
You may not be able to gamble in the Star Wars universe (even though the technology of mobile casinos has become so impressive it might feel like its from another galaxy), but it's still fun to relive the exciting gambling action of the most popular science fiction series of all time.
Rolling the Dice on Canto Bight
In the film, John Boyega’s character Finn and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose are captured in the city of Canto Bight, where a barely-recognisable Benicio del Toro helps them to make their escape. Canto Bight is said to be modelled on Monte Carlo and similarly cash-rich parts of the world and its lavish buildings, racetracks and casinos certainly confirm the comparison.
Finn and Rose find themselves in one of those casinos as they make their getaway amid a collection of weird and wonderful characters that know full well the perks of being a high roller trying their hand at the blackjack table and on the roulette wheel. The casino is beautifully realised and features the Star Wars franchise’s notorious attention to detail and production value.
The scene is a coming-of-age moment for Finn, who had otherwise led a sheltered life as a stormtrooper in the Imperial Army. He is attracted by the bright lights, the opulence and the decadence of the casino environment, before Rose reminds him of the task in hand. We can't blame him.
Mos Eisley Cantina
The recent scenes in Canto Bight aren't the series' first foray into the world of casino gaming. The first appearance of a casino in Star Wars dates back to the very first film in the series: A New Hope. Here, Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi visit the notorious Mos Eisley Cantina, which would become a staple of the franchise and a much-parodied watering hole in other films and TV shows. This ‘spit and sawdust’ pub was home to a number of hooligans, criminals and down-and-outs, pictured playing their own versions of casinos games to fund their nefarious habits. In subsequent chapters of the series a number of casinos, including Aerie, Coruscant Crown, Daystar, Iego and Star Cluster, have appeared in a number of different scenes.
Of course, they play different games in space, like Binspo, Compmatch and Tregald. There's also Sabacc. This featured 76 cards with 60 spread across four suits (flasks, sabres, staves and coins) and 16 special cards. The aim was to compile a hand as close to 23 in value as possible but not higher – a sort of intergalactic blackjack, then. Sabacc will be a central part of Solo: A Star Wars Story, with Han Solo winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a game with the famous vessel on the line. The sequence, found in Star Wars fiction, is expected to feature in the upcoming release.
Calrissian isn’t the only Star Wars character to lose out on a bet. Watto, the bad-tempered sprite, won the rights to a pair of slaves in the Phantom Menace. The slaves are more readily known as Shmi Skywalker and her son Anakin (aka Darth Vader), who Watto won after a successful podracing bet against Gardulla the Hutt. But his ‘ownership’ wouldn’t last long, with Anakin triumphing in the Boonta Eve podrace against Sebulba, whom Watto had wagered upon. The Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, took the spoils.
And if you were planning on attending a casino anywhere on the galaxy, it might just pay to have that mechanical maladroit, C-3PO, by your side. The gold-plated one had a way with numbers, and is forever quoting the odds attached to a particular scenario. “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720/1,” he told Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in the Empire Strikes Back. Whether he has enjoyed any success on the roulette table with his knowledge remains to be seen!