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Nicky Santoro

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You know, I you've got the wrong impression about me. I think in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is that I do. For instance tomorrow morning I'll get up nice and early, take a walk down over to the bank and... walk in and see and, uh... if you don't have my money for me, I'll... crack your fuckin' head wide open in front of everybody in the bank. And just about the time that I'm comin' out of jail, hopefully, you'll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I'll split your fuckin' head open again. 'Cause I'm fuckin' stupid. I don't give a fuck about jail. That's my business. That's what I do. And you know what YOU do, don't we, Charlie? You fuck people out of money and get away with it.
~ Nicky Santoro on his methods.

Nicky Santoro is a central character and the main antagonist in the 1995 film Casino directed by Martin Scorsese. He's based off the real life Chicago Outfit enforcer who was based in Las Vegas, the late Anthony John "The Ant" Spilotro.

He was portrayed by Joe Pesci, who played a similar character Tommy DeVito in the 1990 film Goodfellas, also directed by Scorsese.


Nicky Santoro was a childhood friend of Jewish handicapper Sam 'Ace' Rothstein. Nicky worked for the Mafia boss Remo Gaggi, whom made Santoro. When the Mafia decided to move into Las Vegas to skim the profits of the Tangiers Casino, they chose Ace to run the casino, while Nicky was assigned to protect him. Nicky had his right-hand man Frankie Marino to help him with his criminal activities.

Nicky was a psychopath, who would kill anyone he saw as a threat. A prime example was when Nicky repeatedly stabbed a man in the neck with a pen after he had insulted Ace, later beating him and stabbing him some more, making fun of him for crying. The man mostlikely died as a result of this. Nicky also intimidated the bookmakers in Las Vegas. Despite his life of crime, Nicky was also a devoted husband and father. He would attend his son's presentations at school, as well as get him into a Little League baseball game. Nicky tried to forget about the fact that the Little League was run by a cop, and was even friendly to him. Every morning, Nicky always made sure he was home to cook breakfast for his son, and commented how smart his son was.

After a while, Nicky asked Ace if he could come with him to Las Vegas. Ace tried to warn Nicky to keep a low profile, as the authorities have a zero tolerance policy to gangsters. Nicky ignored the warning and started to run crime in Las Vegas. Eventually, Nicky's cheating got himself banned from every casino in Las Vegas and his name was added to the Black Book. This didn't stop Nicky, and he set up his own gang, including his younger brother Dominic, to burgle peoples houses. He also set up a jewelry store and a restaurant to act as legitimate front.

One of the most brutal murder that Nicky took part in was the murder of Tony Dogs, an Irish-American mobster who had shot up one of Remo's bars, killing two of Remo's men and an innocent waitress. Nicky was assigned with torturing Dogs to find out the other men involved. Nicky admitted that he admired Dogs for being so tough, as he beat up Dogs for two days and two nights with help from Frankie and Dominic, but Dogs never talked. Eventually, they had to put Dogs' head in a vice. Nicky tried to reason with Dogs, but Dogs only insulted Nicky. This annoyed Nicky so much, that he tightened the vice till Dogs eye popped out. After this, Dogs admitted that the other man was Charlie M. Nicky screamed at Dogs for being so dumb as to protect a "piece of shit" like Charlie M. Frankie finishes off Dogs by slitting his throat.

No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead.
~ Sam Rothstein on Nicky.

Nicky was required to help Ace out after he discovers that Ginger has been giving money to her old boyfriend Lester Diamond. Nicky was instructed by Ace to follow Lester and have his gang severly beat Lester, while Nicky watches. Ace made Ginger watch Lester being beaten and she was really upset. Ginger later goes to Nicky asking why Ace had to do that. Nicky states the Ace loves her very much and she should try working it out with him. However, this starts an affair between Nicky and Ginger, something which the mafia bosses do not tolerate.

Nicky's services as a hitman are called in when a businesswoman Anna Scott shows up at the casino and demands that her ex-partner gives her money. Scotts sues him in court, and Green must show where he got the funding, which was from the mafia. Gaggi, furious over the outcome, sends Nicky to murder Scott. This causes police to start looking at Green as well (although he had no idea of the murder).

The media starts speculating whether Ace's friendship with Nicky could affect his license hearing, although he was promised a fair one from the senator. After Nicky threatens Ace's banker, Ace tells him that he needs to calm down with the way he's been doing things. The bosses also agree, Gaggi tells Marino to tell Nicky to handle things quieter. Nicky starts showing his contempt for the Outfit and starts getting aggravated with Ace. He also starts figuring out ways to throw off the detectives who have constant surveillance on him, such as radar and switching cars multiple times. Ace realizes what he wants to do, he wants to overthrow Gaggi and take control of everything.

When Stone tells Nicky what Ace said, Nicky meets Ace out in the desert, where he angrily tells him never to talk behind his back again. The two are so angry at each other that when Ace sees Nicky, Frankie, and Dominick at a restaurant, he pretends he doesn't know him. Out of spite, Nicky shows up ai the Tangiers, despite being banned. After Ace tells Nicky to hurry up and get out, Nicky loses his temper again, this time, on Billy Sherbert. He calls him a Jew prick and beats him with a telephone.

Gaggi asks Marino whether he knows if Nicky's sleeping with Ace's wife. Marino narrates that he knew it could get Ace, Ginger, and Nicky killed if he told the truth. So he lies, even though he puts himself in danger as well. By now, Nicky and his crew have become coke addicts and alcoholics, affecting the way they work. They start doing stupid things, like shooting up cop's houses after the police killed one of their members. Nicky is also worried that Ace will go to Gaggi and tell him about the affair. Even though he hasn't made up his mind, Nicky tells Frankie to start getting ready to have Ace killed, if it comes to that.

One night, Ace calls his home from the casino, but no one answers. When he gets home, he finds his daughter Amy tied to her bedpost, by Ginger. He finds out she's at Nicky's restaurant and quickly goes there. He goes to her table and warns her if she ever abuses Amy again he'll kill her. They get home where they argue some more, only to have Ginger return to Nicky's. They argue in the back of the restaurant, and Ginger asks Nicky to have Ace killed. Nicky refuses, that he's been Ace's friend for 35 years. Nicky is more worried that the bosses are going to find out. In a fit of rage, Ginger attacks Nicky, and after being slapped a couple of times, is literally thrown out by Nicky and Frankie. Ace calls Billy Sherbert and asks him to come over to his house with his gun, fearing for his life.

While Nicky had skipped town, the FBI executes search warrants on his house and the Gold Rush, arresting Dominick, Frankie, and the rest of the crew. The feds seize the casino and start going through the books. Philip Green admits he was being extorted and is willing to cooperate. While going through Artie Piscano's house, the feds find his record books, giving them all they need. Piscano becomes so upset that he drops dead from a heart attack. They even show Ace the pictures of Ginger and Nicky, but Ace doesn't want to look at them. The Chicago Outfit is indicted with skimming the casino and they decide to murder anyone who can incriminate them. They reluctantly kill Andy Stone in fear that he may talk, although Nicky states a big reason is that he wasn't Italian. John Nance is also killed while hiding from the feds in Costa Rica (Nance's son had been busted for drugs, and the bosses were afraid he'd come out to save his son.) Also on the Outfits hitlist are two of the men from the counting room. Pretty soon, anyone who knew anything is getting killed. After Ginger left, she hooked up with some lowlifes and blew through all the money and jewels. She later is found dead from a cocaine overdose. Ace himself is nearly killed by a car bomb, from the opening scene. While the media believes it was orchestrated by the bosses, Ace believes that Nicky is somehow involved.

But Ace never gets the chance to question Nicky. By now, the bosses have had enough of him. The combination of being barred from the casinos, the heat he brought from his murders and burglarys, and him sleeping with a married-mans wife against the made-man code are all too much for the bosses to handle. They have Nicky's crew meet him in a cornfield after they posted bail. After saying hello to them, they hold him down as they beat Dominick with bats. Frankie leads the beatdown, saying he's had enough of them. They beat Dominick until he's knocked out, then they strip him and throw him into a shallow grave. They then procede to beat Nicky. Ace narrates that they buried them while they were still breathing.

In the original script, Lester was supposed to be shot in the desert by Nicky as a favor for Sam.


As mentioned previously, Nicky Santoro is a psychopath. His hot temper causes him to act impulsively, as he will kill anyone whom he sees as a threat but he can attack innocent people too. However, Nicky is a family man and he never gets angry with his family. Early on in the film, Nicky is fiercely loyal to Ace and the Outfit. Nicky's loyalty begins to wane after he feels he is ignored by Ace and he starts to betray him. Although he is a violent gangser, Nicky is shown to have high standards. He gets angry at a degenerate gambler and at his friend for putting his feet on a casino table. Nicky is also disgusted at hitman Tony Dogs for shooting an innocent waitress when she shouldn't have been working and he gets angry at Ginger for flippantly asking him to kill his friend of 35 years.

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