What Is a Casino?


A casino is an establishment where people can gamble on games of chance. Such games may include poker, baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, and video poker. Most games have mathematically determined odds, which mean that the house has a constant advantage over players (the house edge). The casino earns money by taking a commission on winning bets. This commission is known as the rake. Casinos also give out complimentary items to certain players, called comps. These freebies can include hotel rooms, food, drinks and even show tickets.

The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it appears in almost every society in some form or another. Ancient Mesopotamia, Rome, and Elizabethan England all had casino-style entertainment. Today, casinos are found all over the world and feature a wide variety of games. Some are small, standalone buildings while others are huge resorts with multiple gaming floors and rooms.

In the United States, Las Vegas and Atlantic City are the most famous casinos, but they are far from the only ones. Reno, Nevada, and several cities in the Midwest have casinos. Increasingly, Native American casinos are opening in the US, too.

Casinos are primarily run by employees. They have security staff and managers to monitor the games and patrons. Elaborate surveillance systems give a high-tech “eye in the sky” view of the entire casino at once. Cameras are programmed to focus on suspicious patrons and can be adjusted by a team of security workers in a separate room filled with banks of security monitors. Casinos also enforce security through rules of conduct and behavior. Players are required to keep their cards visible at all times, for instance. Table game dealers are trained to spot blatant cheating like palming and marking. They are also aware of betting patterns that could indicate that someone is stealing chips.

Initially, legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in casinos because they were illegal in most other states. However, organized crime figures had the cash from drug dealing and extortion rackets to finance casinos and promote their business. They took sole or partial ownership of many casinos and were able to impose their will on the management.

As more states legalized gambling, entrepreneurs began to realize the potential of casinos as destinations for tourists. They were built in beautiful locations such as spa towns, and designed to be luxurious on the inside and attractive on the outside. Some were built around a specific game such as poker, while others focused on the overall experience of the customer.