What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment in which people play games of chance for money. In addition to slot machines and tables for card games, a casino often has restaurants and live entertainment. It may also have bars, hotels and other amenities.

Gambling in some form has been part of almost every society throughout history. In modern times, however, it has become more concentrated in casinos. While the word casino may conjure up images of Las Vegas and other flashy venues, the term can be used to describe less elaborate places that offer certain types of gambling.

The casino industry is dominated by organized crime figures. Mafia members provided much of the capital that built the first modern casinos in Nevada. This money came from their drug dealing, extortion and other illegal rackets. But once the casinos were established, mobsters became involved in more than just financing. They took sole or partial ownership of some casinos, and they exerted considerable influence over the results of some games.

Most casino games are based on pure chance, although some have an element of skill. The house always has an advantage in any game, and this is called the “house edge.” This advantage can be figured out by knowing the rules of the game and the expected return on investment. The house takes a small percentage of all bets placed on a game, and this is known as the rake. Some casinos also offer complimentary items to gamblers, called comps.

Modern casinos typically employ a combination of physical and specialized surveillance security forces. The physical force patrols the casino and responds to calls for help or reports of suspected or definite criminal activity. The specialized surveillance department operates the casino’s closed circuit television system, which is sometimes referred to as the eye in the sky.

Casinos have grown to be enormous mega-casinos, with impressive size and decor and a mindblowing number of games. Some even have hotels, restaurants, non-gambling games, bars, swimming pools and other amenities to appeal to entire families.

In the past, some casinos were small, private clubs where patrons could meet for social occasions or gamble. The advent of the railroad and the spread of legalized gambling in the United States in the mid-20th century caused these clubs to grow into the large, public casino establishments that we are familiar with today. Casinos are usually located in populated areas and are crowded with visitors and locals alike. Many casinos offer free drinks, stage shows and other entertainment to draw in customers. These features can make them a great place to celebrate a win or commiserate over a loss. Some casinos are even open 24 hours a day. These facilities are often combined with restaurants, shopping, hotel rooms and cruise ships. They are a popular attraction worldwide. Some casinos have a high-tech “eye in the sky” surveillance system that allows security personnel to see the activities at all table games and slot machines from anywhere in the casino.