What Is a Casino?


A casino is an establishment for certain types of gambling. Successful casinos bring in billions of dollars each year for the companies, investors, Native American tribes and state governments that own or operate them. They may also host card games and electronic machines and offer a variety of other amenities such as restaurants, hotels, golf courses and spas. Some casinos are located in massive resorts with multiple structures and even water slides, while others may be found in converted racetracks and even bars and grocery stores. In the United States, casino games are generally played in licensed and regulated gaming facilities known as “casinos,” while in other countries they may be offered by independent operators or at racinos (gambling venues built on or adjacent to horse racing tracks).

Most casino gambling is based on chance, but some require skill. The most popular game is roulette, which has a house edge of less than 1 percent and can be profitable for casinos by keeping their bets low to attract small bettors. Craps is another major casino game, with a lower house edge of about 1.4 percent. In addition to table games, most casinos also feature card games such as blackjack and poker, and some offer keno or other lottery-type games.

Casinos make their money by charging a commission, called the vig or rake, on each bet placed by patrons. This can be as high as two percent in some games. In addition to this, most casinos also earn income from the sale of food and beverages and from hotel rooms, although this is decreasing in many places.

There are no exact figures, but it is estimated that about 51 million people—a quarter of the population over 21 in the United States—visited a casino in 2002. The revenue generated by these visitors fueled an expansion in the industry that saw new properties open at a record pace. Many of these casinos are elaborate, featuring fountains, pyramids and towers and replicas of famous landmarks.

Security is a major concern for casino operators, and the latest technology is used to monitor patrons and games. For instance, “chip tracking” allows casinos to see exactly how much is being wagered minute by minute; computerized systems keep tabs on the results of slot machines; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored for any statistical deviation from an expected result.

In addition to the latest technology, casinos use other methods to deter cheating. For example, employees watch casino patrons closely to catch any blatant acts of cheating such as marking or palming cards or dice. They also observe the routines of players at table games to detect patterns that could signal cheating. Table managers and pit bosses are also on the lookout for suspicious behavior by table patrons, making sure that all betting spots are filled and that no one is stealing chips or playing for higher stakes than they should be allowed to.

Casinos reward loyal gamblers with comps such as free hotel stays, meals, show tickets and limo service. They also discourage problem gamblers by requiring them to sign self-exclusion agreements, which prohibit them from returning to the casino for a set period of time.