What Is a Casino?


A casino is a facility where people can gamble by playing games of chance, in some cases with an element of skill. Casinos feature table games such as craps, roulette, and baccarat; video poker machines; and card games such as blackjack and pai gow. Most casino games have mathematically determined odds that give the house an advantage over the players, a disadvantage that is sometimes called the “house edge.” In some table games, such as poker, the house makes its profit by taking a percentage of the total amount wagered, a practice known as rake.

Gambling has been a popular pastime in most societies throughout history. Some cultures have legalized it; others have banned it completely or restricted it to certain venues. The word casino comes from the Latin “caissa,” meaning “house.” The first modern casinos opened in Europe in the nineteenth century, drawing royalty and aristocracy to elegant spa towns such as Baden-Baden and Monte Carlo. Many of these venues were designed by architects with a taste for Baroque flourishes.

In the United States, casinos are licensed and regulated by state governments. In addition, they are a major source of tourism income. A recent survey found that approximately 24% of American adults had visited a casino in the previous year. This figure reflects a significant increase over the previous survey conducted by Roper Reports GfK NOP in 1989, when only 20% of adults had visited a casino.

To entice gamblers, casinos often offer free food and drinks. Some even host concerts and other special events. High rollers, or those who place large bets, are favored by casinos because they generate the most revenue. To reward them, casinos may provide free luxury suites or other perks.

Because of the large amounts of money that are handled within a casino, security is a top priority. Most casinos employ surveillance cameras and other technological measures to monitor activity. Casinos also have rules that prohibit cheating and stealing, either by patrons or by staff. These rules are often augmented with specific technological measures, such as chip tracking, which allows a casino to monitor the exact amount of money placed at each betting station minute by minute; or roulette wheels that are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviations from their expected results.

Due to the risk of theft, casino patrons are often searched upon entry and exit. In the past, these searches were often unsupervised; but in the 1990s, casinos began to use advanced technology to enhance security. For example, some casinos have catwalks that allow surveillance personnel to look down through one-way glass directly on the table games and slot machines. In some instances, these cameras are linked to remote monitoring centers. Other casinos have employed expert mathematicians to develop sophisticated computer programs that analyze the results of individual games and compare them with those of other casinos around the world. This analysis is referred to as gaming analytics. These programs help casinos determine the house edge and variance for each game.

Posted in: Gambling