What Is a Casino?

What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment that offers various games of chance and provides its customers with the opportunity to win money. A casino is a popular entertainment destination for many people and can be found in many countries. Some casinos are lavish and have special amenities, while others are more basic. Some even have a theme. The Hippodrome Casino in London, for example, is known for its stage shows and dramatic scenery. The Bellagio in Las Vegas is famous for its dancing fountains and was featured in the 2001 movie Ocean’s 11.

Aside from facilitating gambling, casinos also offer food, drinks and other entertainment. Some casinos are themed, such as those in Macau that are designed to replicate traditional Chinese culture. Others, like the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, have a sports book and 60 large plasma TVs for betting on American football, boxing, soccer and other events. Other casinos focus on table games, like baccarat and blackjack, or slot machines, such as those at the Bellagio and the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

Regardless of the theme, a casino has one goal in common: to make money. Every casino game has a built-in mathematical advantage for the house, which means that it’s almost impossible for a gambler to win more than they lose on any given visit. To offset this, a casino charges a “vig” or a “rake” on bets, usually a small percentage of the total amount placed. This gives the casino a profit of about two percent on each bet, which adds up quickly over the millions of bets that are placed at casinos every day.

The first casinos were illegal in most states until the 1950s when organized crime groups took over gambling operations in Nevada and other places. While legitimate businessmen were hesitant to get involved in a business that carried the taint of vice, mobster money flowed into casinos in Reno and later Las Vegas with little difficulty. In addition to financing the expansion and renovation of casino properties, mobster leaders were often personally involved in the management of casinos. They took sole or partial ownership of some casinos and influenced the outcome of certain games by threatening casino employees.

Casinos have become more sophisticated since the 1980s, employing technology to monitor their patrons and the games themselves. For instance, in a process called “chip tracking,” chips have built-in microcircuitry that interact with electronic systems to enable casinos to oversee the exact amounts of each bet minute by minute and to instantly discover any deviation from expected results. Roulette wheels are also electronically monitored to discover any statistical anomaly.

Although casinos bring in billions of dollars, critics point out that they don’t create any real economic benefit for the communities they serve. Studies show that local expenditures on entertainment and the costs of treating problem gambling addicts offset any gains from casino revenue. In addition, they have the potential to attract illegal gambling, which undermines the overall economy.