What Is a Casino?


A casino, also known as a gambling house or gaming establishment, is a place where people go to gamble. These establishments have games of chance and skill, as well as hotels, restaurants, and other amenities. In the United States, casinos are regulated by state and local laws, and are often combined with hotels or resorts. There are over fifty million people—a quarter of all Americans over the age of 21—who visit casinos every year, whether in Las Vegas or in small card rooms. Some casinos have expanded to include non-gambling entertainment, such as shopping and spas.

Successful casinos bring in billions of dollars a year for the companies, investors, and Native American tribes that own them. They also pay millions in taxes, fees, and other payments to state and local governments. Mafia figures once controlled many casinos in Nevada and elsewhere, but federal crackdowns on organized crime and the fear of losing a gambling license at even the faintest hint of mob involvement forced them to abandon their hold. That left legitimate businessmen with deep pockets, including real estate developers and hotel chains, to buy them out and run them without the taint of mob money.

In order to maximize their profits, casinos focus on attracting and keeping high rollers. These big bettors are rewarded with free rooms, gourmet meals, shows, and other luxurious perks, and they account for much of the income of most casinos. Casinos also focus on customer service, providing waiters circulating throughout the floors with drinks and snacks. The atmosphere is designed to be noisy, bright, and exciting to encourage gamblers to spend more money.

Because of the high risk of criminal activity, casinos invest in security measures to protect their patrons and property. They use video cameras and other surveillance equipment to monitor the activities of customers, employees, and security personnel. In addition, casinos use sophisticated computer systems to supervise the actual playing of games. For example, in “chip tracking,” betting chips with built-in microcircuitry interact with electronic systems that record the amount wagered minute by minute so that the casino can monitor the odds and quickly detect any anomaly; roulette wheels are electronically monitored regularly to discover any statistical deviations from their expected results.

Some casinos, particularly those in the United States, have also made a point of catering to the interests of women and children. They offer a variety of games, such as bingo and poker, that are suitable for all ages, as well as childcare facilities and other amenities to attract families. Other casinos, such as those in Europe, are less family-oriented and focus on adult gambling.