What Is a Casino?

A casino is a gambling establishment that houses and runs games of chance, such as blackjack, roulette, poker, craps, baccarat and slot machines. The games of chance rake in billions of dollars in profits for the casinos, investors and Native American tribes. A few million people—roughly a quarter of all Americans over the age of 21—visit casinos every year. These visitors spend billions of dollars in the process. The glittering hotels, lighted fountains and restaurants that populate the casinos are a draw, but the main reason to visit is to gamble.

Casinos can be found all over the world and vary widely in size. Some are built in lavish resorts, while others are on barges and boats on waterways or in small card rooms in cities and towns. Some states have laws prohibiting casino gambling while others endorse it.

In the early days of the gambling industry, casino owners often had little problem attracting customers. Mobster money flowed into Reno and Las Vegas, helping the businesses to expand quickly. Mafia figures were also willing to invest their own capital in the business, taking full or partial ownership of casinos and influencing decisions on game play.

As the industry grew, however, the owners of casinos sought out new ways to bring in money. They began focusing on high-stakes bettors, offering them extravagant inducements to gamble. The perks might include free spectacular entertainment, travel packages, luxury living quarters and reduced-fare transportation and hotel stays.

Today’s casinos use technology to keep track of their customers. In addition to video cameras and other general surveillance systems, some casinos employ elaborate electronic monitors that constantly scan the floor for any statistical deviations from expected results. These monitors are able to track individual players, and can alert security staff when suspicious patterns emerge.

There are still people who try to cheat the casinos, however. “Advantage players” know which games have a positive mathematical expectation, and play them until the expected value is negative again. Casinos also have a variety of other security measures.

As the casino industry grew, it began spreading across the United States. It was not long before many other countries opened casinos, and even localities that had never heard of a casino were beginning to open them. In the 1990s, Nevada began to feel the squeeze as other states legalized casino gambling. Casinos began opening in Iowa, Atlantic City and other coastal cities, and Native American casinos spread rapidly. Eventually, casinos opened in almost every state in the country and around the world. In 2008, 24% of Americans said they had visited a casino in the past year. The number of people visiting casinos each year continues to grow. The casinos attract both local residents and tourists, who come from all over the world to take advantage of the gambling opportunities they offer. The casinos also benefit from the tourism industry, and provide jobs for many people. In addition, they contribute to economic growth and have an impact on property values in the area.