What Is a Casino?


Casino is a gambling establishment where customers gamble by playing games of chance, in some cases with an element of skill, and pay for the privilege. Most games have mathematically determined odds that give the house an advantage over the players. This advantage is called the house edge. Casinos sometimes offer complimentary items to gamblers, such as drinks, meals or hotel rooms. They may also take a percentage of the players’ winnings, a charge known as the rake. Casinos are usually located in cities or tourist destinations.

Some casinos use a combination of human and technological monitoring systems to track suspicious activity. For example, “chip tracking” allows a casino to monitor betting chips minute by minute and quickly discover any statistical deviation from expected results. Roulette wheels are monitored electronically, and video cameras can be adjusted to focus on particular patrons if necessary. A high-tech “eye in the sky” system can monitor every table, window and doorway from a control room staffed by security personnel.

As casinos expanded in Nevada during the 1950s, mafia money began flowing into the businesses. Many owners were reluctant to accept the mob’s cash because of gambling’s seamy image, and some feared the mobsters would influence game outcomes. As a result, many casinos were financed in part or completely by organized crime figures, who often took sole or partial ownership of some casinos and exerted considerable influence over casino operations.

Most of the world’s casinos are in Las Vegas, which began as a small gambling town and has grown to become the most famous casino city in the world. The other major casino centers are Atlantic City, Reno and Macau. In addition to gambling, some casinos feature night clubs, restaurants and other entertainment.

In Europe, the elegant spa town of Baden-Baden became a popular casino destination in the 19th century, attracting royalty and aristocracy from across Europe. Its casino has the feel of a French palace and is regarded as one of the best in the world.

While a casino’s primary function is to serve as a source of income, its operation can have negative effects on the surrounding community. Economic studies show that the net effect of a casino is usually negative, with profits being offset by a loss in local spending by people who visit the casino; by higher healthcare costs for problem gambling addicts; and by lower property values due to casino-related traffic. However, a number of communities have decided to build casinos despite these negative impacts. A few have even opted to build casinos on tribal land. In these instances, the tribes have established regulatory bodies to ensure that the casinos are operated fairly. Some tribes have even set aside gaming revenues for social services. Other tribes have chosen not to open casinos and instead have devoted the money to other forms of community development.