What Is a Casino?


A casino is a building where people can gamble and play games of chance. It’s a form of entertainment that many people enjoy, including your grandmother who takes weekend bus trips to the nearest casino with her friends. A casino’s attractions can include musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers, but the vast majority of its profits come from gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps and other games of chance make up the billions of dollars that casinos rake in each year.

Casinos are designed to give the house a mathematical advantage over all bettors. This edge can be as low as two percent, but it adds up over millions of bets. Because of the expected house edge, it is very rare for a casino to lose money on any game. In fact, a casino’s revenue usually exceeds its expenses by a margin of five to one. This gives casinos the luxury of offering big bettors extravagant inducements, such as free spectacular entertainment, limousines and elegant living quarters. Even lesser bettors are often offered reduced-fare transportation, hotel rooms and free drinks and cigarettes while they’re gambling.

Most casinos are built in tourist destinations, such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, or on Native American reservations. They also appear in a growing number of states that have legalized casino gambling, or in Iowa where they are housed in riverboats that are not subject to state antigambling laws.

Because of the large amounts of cash handled within a casino, security is a high priority. Casinos use surveillance cameras throughout their premises, and computers monitor game outcomes minute by minute to discover any deviation from expected results. In addition, chips with microcircuitry allow for accurate tracking of bets placed by players. Some games, such as baccarat and craps, are regularly audited to ensure their accuracy.

In addition to standard casino games, most casinos offer a variety of exotic and regional games. These include Sic Bo, a Chinese dice game that was introduced to casinos in the 1990s, fan-tan and pai-gow. Many Asian casinos also feature traditional Far Eastern games such as keno, two-up and banca francesa.

In the past, gangsters controlled the operations of some casinos, but federal crackdowns and the threat of losing their gaming licenses at the slightest hint of mob involvement led legitimate businesses to take over the industry. Now, the biggest casinos are owned by hotel chains and real estate investors, who have deep pockets that allow them to spend heavily on casino facilities and attract the highest-stakes gamblers. Some of these megacasinos are modeled after palaces or historic buildings, and their opulence has made them popular with international visitors. In addition, they offer non-gambling amenities that appeal to families and other groups. The Bellagio in Las Vegas, for example, is famous for its dancing fountains and offers a wide selection of table games, poker rooms, and slots.