What does "the churn" mean in this passage?

It may not have the guns, but it certainly has the glamour and the gangsters: football's player-transfer market is the latter-day equivalent of post-war Las Vegas. In the same way that the mobsters' Syndicate used the churn of casino cash to wash its dirty money on the Strip, so has organized crime cottoned on to the possibilities presented by player transfers. No one has ever conducted a consolidated audit of the amount of money spent each year on the acquisition of talent...

I've found this definition in thefreedictionary.com:

the unethical and usually illegal excessive buying and selling of shares of stock for a customer by a stockbroker or sales agent for the purpose of obtaining high sales commissions

But this word is difficult to translate into Russian.

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    Lexico has the meaning as a verb: 4 encourage frequent turnover of (investments) in order to generate commission. Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 15:56
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    Will you please tell us what definitions you've looked at so far and why they don't seem to fit this context?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 16:03
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    I think the cited usage is at least slightly "suspect". In context, it's clearly churn = turnover / cashflow [money passing through the system], but it's not usually used this way. More often you'll see references to customer / employee churn - a situation where existing customers / employees leave a business (usually, at an undesirably high rate), to be replaced by new ones. Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 16:48
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    @Lambie: I upvoted your answer. But I still say the usage is at least slightly "suspect", because it's very much domain-specific terminology. And even thopugh you could perhaps say the same thing about customer / employee churn, both of those appear regularly in "mainstream" text. And there's even a Wikipedia page on churn rate, which is a clearly-identified process in relation to customers and employees. The casino usage, on the other hand, is a significantly different kind of (domain-specific) usage, hence "atypical". Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 12:02
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    @FumbleFingers The money that goes round and round as punters play the game. See my link. How can any of you discount that? Geesus.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


Commentors have noted a financial sense, but I don't think this fits this context. The sense of "making excessive buying and selling of stocks to profit from the commission" may point towards the meaning, but doesn't directly relate Las Vegas.

So we look at the general meanings and find

move or cause to move about vigorously. (lexico)

It is applied literally to liquid, but here it is applied metaphorically to cash. Casinos cause large amounts of cash to move about vigorously, mostly from gamblers to casinos, sometimes the other way too.

The mobsters had "dirty money" that was the proceeds of crime. They can't spend this money because the police will be able to track it. So they need to find a way to make the money clean. This is called "money laundering" The mobsters' syndicate (ie the mafia) used the fact that lots of money was moving about to hide their dirty money in with all this clean money.

I don't know much Russian, but google suggests взбалтывать or взбалтывание.

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    Thank you for the detailed explanation! In Russian then this word is better translated as a "turnover of money" (оборот денежных средств). My English teacher always asks Russian students for literary translation of texts. And I'm earning the degree in journalism. So it’s important for me to know the translation of every word in the context in order to properly interpret the meaning in my native language.
    – Rocky
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 16:47
  • I think this answer misses the point.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 18:37
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    I think the answer is good and well explained. The vast amounts and rapid movement of cash in a casino could also be metaphorically termed a "storm" of cash, "flood" of cash, "cascade" of cash, and so on.
    – user8356
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 19:44
  • The earliest reference I can find for the precise meaning of "churn" in the context of casinos is this 1960 "Research Report": We know for instance that the “churn factor" or number of times money is usually rebet on a given day is about three, where the "scare quotes" imply this was a fairly new and/or highly domain-specific usage. I'm tempted to think whoever wrote OP's example didn't know that definition (I didn't), and was just using the word in the much looser sense "money sloshing around" as described here. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 13:48
  • ...so obviously the real monetary value implied by the domain-specific meaning of casino churn isn't necessarily what most of us would think of as the turnover (total amount of money punters take to Vegas and lose at the gaming tables). It's actually three times that "notional" total, because much of the money is won and re-bet before being lost for good. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 13:58

Here is a full, technical explanation of casino churn:


However, here it means how the money moves through a casino. You buy chips and can then cash them out. That is how they launder money.

"Now, the reason the Industry sounds so big is because of the “churn”, the money that goes around and around as punters play on the games. If we had a slot that paid back 99% then you can see that by only losing $1 in every hundred that “churns through the machine that the total “churn” would be very “high” in relation to the drop."

drop is how much a player loses.

AND since your (cash) money is dirty to begin with, losing some of it is OK because whatever you end up with is clean money. It is untraceable. As long as you declare it as income on tax returns, the authorities can't "get you".

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