"$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)", also known as "$pringfield", is the tenth episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 16, 1993. In the episode, Springfield decides to legalize gambling to revitalize its economy. A casino owned by Mr. Burns is created and Homer gets a job as a blackjack dealer. Meanwhile, Marge develops a gambling addiction, Bart starts his own casino, and Burns develops an odd personality in a parody of Howard Hughes.
The episode was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, and directed by Wes Archer. Gerry Cooney and Robert Goulet guest starred as themselves. The episode features cultural references to films such as Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, The Wizard of Oz, Rain Man, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 11.7, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
The economy of Springfield is in decline, so Mayor Quimby listens to suggestions from citizens on how to improve it. Principal Skinner states that legalized gambling has helped rejuvenate run-down economies, and that it can work for Springfield as well. Everybody, even Marge, likes the idea. Mr. Burns and Mayor Quimby work together to build a casino, where Homer gets a job as a blackjack dealer. The casino is designed by Mr. Burns himself, as the proposals he received were not to his liking. While Marge waits for Homer's shift to end at the casino, she finds a quarter on the floor and uses it to play a slot machine. She wins and almost immediately becomes addicted to gambling. Meanwhile, since Bart is too young to gamble at Burns' Casino, he starts his own casino for his friends to play in his treehouse, and intercepts Robert Goulet to perform there. Burns also grows even richer, but in the process becomes a Howard Hughes-type hermit, developing a profound fear of microscopic germs, urinates in jars, and wears tissue boxes instead of shoes.
Due to her addiction, Marge spends every waking moment at the casino and neglects her family. For instance, she forgets to help Lisa make a costume for her geography pageant. Enraged, Homer bursts into the casino and barges around searching for Marge. The security cameras capture Homer's rampage, and when Burns sees him he demotes him back to his old job at the power plant. After realizing how much he misses the plant, Burns decides to return. Homer confronts Marge with her behavior, and she finally realizes that she has a problem. Lisa does win a special prize in the geography pageant, as Homer's poor costume design gives Lisa the appearance that she did the work all by herself. Ralph Wiggum receives the same prize, as his costume is simply a note taped to his shirt that reads "Idaho".
The episode was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, and directed by Wes Archer. The story of the episode originated from a newspaper article that Oakley and Weinstein found about a town in Mississippi that was introducing riverboat gambling. Oakley said another inspiration for it was that there had not been many episodes about Springfield as a whole and how "crummy" the town was, so they filled the whole first act with scenes showing how "crummy" and "dismal" Springfield was. Oakley particularly liked the animation of the lights inside the casino on the slot machines and the lamps in the ceiling. The "way they radiate out" had always amazed him. Archer, who directed the animation of the episode, also thought they turned out well. The lights were especially hard for them to animate back then because the show was animated traditionally on cels, so Archer was pleased with the results. A deleted scene from the episode shows Homer dealing cards to James Bond. The staff liked the scene, so they decided to put it in the clip show episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular".
There was a brief period when the episode had a different subplot that revolved around the restaurant chain Planet Hollywood. Groening had been told by a spokesperson that if he put Planet Hollywood in The Simpsons, the creators of the restaurant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone, would agree to make guest appearances on the show. The writers of The Simpsons were excited about this so they wrote a new subplot for the episode that featured Planet Hollywood and the three actors. However, for unknown reasons, they were unable to appear in the episode. Instead, Gerry Cooney and Robert Goulet guest starred as themselves. Executive producer David Mirkin enjoyed directing Goulet because he was "such a good sport" and had "a great sense of humor". Oakley thought it was nice that Goulet was willing to make fun of himself in the episode, which at the time was rare for guest stars on The Simpsons. This episode features the first appearances of Gunter and Ernst, the Siegfried and Roy-esque casino magicians who are attacked by their white tiger, Anastasia. Ten years after this episode first aired, Roy Horn was attacked by one of the duo's white tigers. The Simpsons production team dismissed the novelty of the prediction by saying that it was "bound to happen" sooner or later. The Rich Texan also makes his debut appearance in this episode, referred to as "Senator" by Homer.
In its original American broadcast, "$pringfield" finished 35th in the ratings for the week of December 13 to December 19, 1993, with a Nielsen Rating of 11.7, translating to 11 million households. The episode was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.
Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented that "this excellent episode includes a surprising number of concurrent plots. Homer also works in the casino and tries to care for the family without Marge. It balances them deftly and provides great laughs along the way." Adam Suraf of Dunkirkma.net named it the third best episode of the season. He also praised the episode's cultural references. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, wrote: "There's a lovely nod to the earlier episodes in which Marge protests the citizenry's hare-brained ideas at council meetings. A series of bizarre moments rather than a story—we're especially fond of Homer's photographic memory and Mr Burns' descent into insanity—but great fun." Patrick Bromley of DVD Verdict gave the episode a grade of A, and Bill Gibron of DVD Talk gave it a score of 4 out of 5. The episode is Sarah Culp of The Quindecim's eleventh-favorite episode of the show, and one of Les Winan of Box Office Prophets's favorite episodes. A scene from the episode where former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets Burns was included in the 2002 documentary film The Trials of Henry Kissinger.