What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment that offers games of chance for money. While musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and lavish hotels may help lure in visitors, casinos would not exist without the billions of dollars that patrons bet every year. Popular games like slot machines, blackjack, roulette and craps help drive the industry. Some casinos also offer video poker, keno and other games with different winning odds.

Casinos are most often located in tourist destinations. Las Vegas is the most famous example, but they can be found throughout the United States and abroad. Some casinos are also built on American Indian reservations, which are exempt from state anti-gambling laws.

Gambling predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice among the earliest artifacts. However, the modern casino as a place where people could find many types of gambling under one roof did not develop until the 16th century. The idea caught on as a gambling craze swept Europe, with wealthy Italian aristocrats holding private parties at places called ridotti. While technically illegal, these venues were rarely bothered by authorities [Source: Schwartz].

While a casino might have a number of gaming tables and slot machines, it is not an amusement park or theme park. It is not uncommon to see casino patrons wearing tuxedos and smoking cigarettes as they gamble. The most popular game in a casino is slots, with more than 60 percent of all wagers made on this type of machine. The second most popular game is poker, with the remainder split between other table games and a few video games.

The casino business depends on players who wager large sums of money to generate huge profits for the house. To ensure that they can pay their big bettors, casinos set the odds of each game so that there is always a mathematical advantage for the house. This advantage is sometimes known as expected value or the house edge. Casinos also earn money from the rake, which is a percentage of each bet placed.

To attract the biggest bettors, casinos offer extravagant inducements. These might include free spectacular entertainment, luxury transportation and living quarters, discounted food and drinks while gambling and even full hotel stays. The average casino customer is a forty-six-year-old female from a household with above-average income. Older parents, who have more vacation time and spending money than younger adults, are also major casino gamblers.

Something about the presence of large amounts of money encourages casino patrons and staff to cheat and steal, either in collusion or individually. This is why most casinos spend a great deal of time and money on security measures. A casino’s security personnel keep an eye on everything that happens in the gambling floor, from the way dealers shuffle and deal cards to betting patterns on table games. Usually, security cameras are installed everywhere in a casino. Some security cameras are even built into the ceiling above the gambling area.