What Is a Casino?

What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people can gamble. Some casinos have stage shows and elaborate scenery, but others are more simple. In all cases, a casino is a place where people can play gambling games and win prizes. A casino is usually located near a hotel or resort and may offer dining, shopping, entertainment and other amenities to attract customers.

In the United States, casinos are a major source of revenue. They earn billions of dollars each year from the patrons they serve. While lighted fountains, musical shows, shopping centers and lavish hotels all contribute to the revenue of a casino, the vast majority of the money is made from the sale of chance-based games like blackjack, roulette, poker and slot machines. The games that are played in a casino are designed to provide a long-term advantage to the house, and the profits are generated by charging a percentage of the bets placed on the game. Those who have enough skill to eliminate the built-in house advantage are known as advantage players.

Although gambling probably predates recorded history, the modern casino emerged in the 16th century during a gaming craze among Italian aristocrats. The aristocrats held private parties at places called ridotti, where they would play a variety of games and make bets.

Today, casinos are much larger and more sophisticated, but the basic concept remains the same. Patrons pay a fee to enter the casino, and they gamble on games of chance in exchange for winning prizes. Some of these games require skill, but most do not. In either case, the house always wins. The average house edge for all casino games is about five percent, and the house must keep a large percentage of the bets to remain profitable.

In addition to the houses, casinos are staffed by professionals whose job is to keep the patrons safe and the games fair. Security starts on the casino floor, where employees watch over the games and the patrons to prevent blatant cheating or stealing. Dealers have a close eye on the cards and dice, and can quickly spot things such as palming or markering. Table managers and pit bosses have a broader view of the action, looking for betting patterns that might signal cheating.

Casinos also rely on cameras to watch their patrons. These cameras are mounted in the ceiling, allowing surveillance personnel to look down, through one way glass, on the activities at the tables and slot machines. Some casinos have catwalks in the roof that allow surveillance personnel to look directly down on the casino floor.

In the past, some casino owners were mobsters who used their casinos as fronts for crime, but the development of modern casino technology and federal crackdowns on mob activities have kept most casino operators out of the mafia’s clutches. Many casino companies have deep pockets, and are willing to spend money on expensive technology and other security measures to protect their gambling cash cows.