Runner Runner Blows Up Box Office – As In Bombs

Living up – or down – to expectations, the new movie centered around online poker, Runner Runner, bombed at the box office this past weekend.

Early expectations quoted by Business Insider predict a painful opening weekend figure of $11 million. Ouch.

Low attendance for the weekend clearly not a factor

The lack of success experienced by Runner Runner as it hit American movie theaters late last week certainly cannot be blamed on a lack of audience attendance. The new movie that finds George Clooney and Sandra Bullock floating through outer space, Gravity, broke October records, raking in an impressive $55.6 million.

That number gives Gravity the highest-ever opening weekend in the month of October, snatching the title from Paranormal Activity, released two years ago in 2011.

Poor reviews didn’t damper attempts at politicization

Early reviews did little to build up excitement for Runner Runner, a story that focuses on a graduate student played by Justin Timberlake who gets caught up with a Costa Rica-based Internet poker tycoon, portrayed by Ben Affleck.

Princeton student Timberlake finds himself out thousands of dollars after playing on the unregulated online poker web site operated by Affleck. The plot follows Timberlake as he locates Affleck and becomes involved with his shady business. Most of the negative feedback of Runner Runner cited a poorly-constructed plot that failed to captivate despite flashy glimpses of the high lifestyle enjoyed by Affleck’s character.

In spite of the less-than-favorable criticism of Runner Runner, some in the gambling industry still saw the opening of the movie as a way to highlight what they see as a need to regulate real-money online poker in the United States, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

AGA takes to social media to promote pro-regulation message

The American Gaming Association (AGA), viewed Runner Runner as an opportunity to educate the public as to the need for stricter laws governing online poker and other forms of Internet wagering, which at the present has only been legalized in three states – Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. The group, which has long backed the passage of a federal law governing Internet-based wagering, launched a multi-pronged advertising campaign, primarily on social media sites, to promote its pro-regulation message.

The movie, says the AGA, shows that a lack of regulation is not the answer. Anti-casino groups have, unsurprisingly, accused the AGA of trying to win over young gamblers by attaching its message to a movie starring popular actors and by publicizing it via channels like Facebook and Twitter.

The AGA is pushing for regulated sites that have in place checks to verify that players are of legal age and are located in areas where games are legal and licensed, it says. Such oversight, notes the group, helps to ensure that would-be underage gamblers lack access to real-money online betting sites.

Explaining why the group chose to target it advertising toward social media, AGA head Geoff Freeman said, “Washington is changing, and how you share your message in Washington is changing. You’ve got to break through the clutter.”

Looking toward Washington, as we now enter a second week of a partial shutdown of the federal government, the chances for near-term success at federal regulation of Internet wagering are looking about as good as those for Runner Runner.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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