What Is a Casino?

What Is a Casino?


A casino is an establishment for gambling. A casino’s primary business is raking in billions of dollars every year from people who wager on games of chance, such as slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno, and poker. Casinos may also offer non-gambling entertainment and other services such as hotels, restaurants, bars, swimming pools, and spas.

The word “casino” traces back to the Italian word for villa or summerhouse, but it was used more specifically as a private clubhouse during the craze for gambling that swept Europe in the 16th century. The casinos of that era were small, intimate places where gamblers could find a variety of ways to bet under one roof and, since gambling was technically illegal, the mobsters who controlled them weren’t bothered by the seamy reputation of their enterprise.

Today’s casinos are a lot like indoor amusement parks for adults, but they wouldn’t exist without the billions of dollars that people bet on games of chance. To attract and keep customers, they provide floor shows, free drinks, all-you-can-eat buffets, and plush accommodations. They also feature an amazing number of gambling games and a wide range of other amenities. Some even offer limo service and airline tickets to big spenders.

From the dazzling lights of Las Vegas to the illegal pai gow parlors of New York City’s Chinatown, some 51 million people visited casinos domestically in 2002. In addition to bringing in huge sums of money, casinos are an important source of employment and generate tax revenues. Casinos are located in cities, towns and rural areas all over the world.

In the United States, the largest and best known are in Nevada, followed by Atlantic City and then Florida. But the industry has grown worldwide, with many new casino locations opening in the 1990s.

Security is a high priority in casino design and operation. Most of the attention is focused on the gaming floors, where employees watch for blatant cheating and collusion among players. They also look for betting patterns that might indicate a player is attempting to manipulate the odds of winning or losing. Many casino floors now have catwalks that allow surveillance personnel to look down through one-way glass directly onto the game tables and slot machines.

Another source of revenue is comps, or complimentary goods and services, offered to “good” gamblers. These range from food and drink to rooms, show tickets, and limo service. The amount of money spent in the casino determines a gambler’s rank and eligibility for these rewards. Most casinos have information desks that explain how to earn the highest comp levels and how to redeem them. In the United States, the Casino Control Act of 1992 requires that casinos give these rewards only to players 21 or over. In other countries, the rules vary widely.