What is a Casino?


The modern casino is much more than an indoor amusement park for adults. It’s an entertainment complex with musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and lavish hotels — but the vast majority of the excitement (and profits for the owners) comes from gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and keno all contribute to the billions of dollars in profits raked in by casinos every year.

While the name “casino” may evoke images of Las Vegas, the gambling establishment is found worldwide. In fact, in 2002 alone, 51 million people – the equivalent of about a quarter of the U.S. population over the age of 21 – visited casinos to play games of chance.

Gambling has been around for centuries, from the earliest rudimentary games of dice and cards recorded on tiles in China and Egypt to scenes on Greek and Roman pottery showing people betting on animal fights. But it wasn’t until Nevada legalized gambling that the casino business took off.

It didn’t take long for others to realize that there was a lot of money to be made from this new form of entertainment, and soon casinos started popping up in cities across the country, as well as in other countries where gambling is legal. Today, there are more than 2,000 casinos, ranging from the flashy mega-resorts in Nevada to the quaint family-run gaming parlors in small towns.

While a few of these casinos have sunk into bankruptcy, many are flourishing and growing even as the world around them changes rapidly. Casinos are now competing not just with each other, but with non-gambling resorts, on-line gambling and an illegal gambling business that is far larger than the legal one.

Casinos rely on many tricks to attract gamblers and keep them coming back for more. Bright colors, gaudy floor and wall coverings and cheering noises all stimulate the senses and help people forget that they’re in a place where they can lose money very quickly. In addition, casino patrons are encouraged to spend as much time as possible gambling. This is done by offering them free drinks, all-you-can-eat buffets and a variety of other amenities.

A casino’s security starts on the floor, where employees watch over patrons to make sure nothing goes wrong. Dealers are trained to spot blatant cheating techniques like palming or marking cards, while pit bosses and table managers have a broader view of the game to detect suspicious behavior. In addition, sophisticated surveillance systems provide an “eye-in-the-sky” that can track and record everything that happens on a casino’s premises. The cameras can be adjusted to focus on specific patrons and are monitored by employees in a room filled with banks of security monitors. In addition, a casino can use microcircuitry in its chips to monitor the amount of money wagered minute by minute and warn dealers of any statistical deviations. And video cameras can be placed outside the doors of a roulette wheel or dice tables to observe how the games are played.