A casino is a place where you can gamble and play games of chance. Some casinos feature a wide variety of gambling games while others specialize in one game or a small number of games. The most common casino games are roulette, baccarat, blackjack and poker. The casinos make money by charging a commission for each bet or by taking a percentage of the winnings. Some casinos also offer food and beverages for a fee.
While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers help draw people to the casino, it is the games of chance that make them profitable. Slot machines, keno, baccarat, craps and other casino games generate billions in profits for their owners each year.
The games themselves have a built-in advantage for the casino that can be very small (lower than two percent), but that advantage is multiplied by the millions of bets placed each year by patrons and adds up to huge sums of money. That money is what allows casinos to finance lavish hotels, exotic locations and replicas of famous pyramids and towers.
Something about the opulence and allure of gambling seems to encourage people to cheat, steal and lie in order to win. For this reason, casinos spend a great deal of time, money and effort on security.
Casino security starts on the floor of the casino, where employees watch every movement of players and dealers. Dealers are heavily focused on their own game, so they can easily spot blatant cheating such as palming, marking or switching cards or dice. Table managers and pit bosses have a more broader view, looking out for patterns of betting that might indicate that a player is trying to gain an unfair advantage.
Elaborate surveillance systems give the casinos a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” that can monitor everything from every table and window to entrances and exits. The video feeds are constantly monitored by security staff in a room filled with banks of screens. The cameras can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons. They can even detect if a slot machine isn’t paying out correctly.
Something about the seamy underbelly of gambling drew organized crime figures to the casino business. Mobster money flowed into Reno and Las Vegas, where casinos became a center for illegal drug dealing, extortion and other rackets. Eventually, legitimate businessmen with deep pockets such as real estate investors and hotel chains bought out the mobsters and ran their casinos without the mob interference that had given them their seamy reputation. Federal crackdowns and the possibility of losing a gambling license at the slightest hint of mafia involvement keep the mob out of casinos now.