What Is a Casino?


A casino, also known as a gambling hall or gaming house, is an entertainment complex that offers a variety of games of chance. Casinos feature gambling tables, card games and dice games such as blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat. In addition, casinos often offer live entertainment, top-notch hotels and shopping centers.

While musical shows, lighted fountains and hotel rooms provide the glitz and glamour that draw in visitors, casinos wouldn’t exist without the billions of dollars in profits raked in each year from games of chance like slot machines, blackjack, poker, craps, keno and roulette. But how do they make this money? And how do they prevent patrons and staff from cheating or stealing?

Casinos have a built in advantage, which is called the “house edge,” that ensures that they will win more bets than they lose. This edge can be very small, but it adds up over time and millions of bets. Casinos use this revenue to fund everything from fancy hotels and elaborate fountains to replicas of towers and pyramids.

Modern casinos have increased their reliance on technology to monitor the games themselves, especially as they’ve moved away from traditional table games like baccarat and roulette to wholly automated versions where players bet by pushing buttons. In fact, the high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” surveillance system that casino’s now employ can even track the movement of individual betting chips, alerting security if any unusual patterns emerge.

Something about gambling seems to encourage people to try and cheat, steal and scam their way into a winning hand. Whether it’s collusion between two patrons or the occasional random occurrence, these incidents are responsible for a large portion of the time and money casinos spend on security.

Although the exact origins of gambling are unknown, it is believed that some form of it has existed since ancient times, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice being found in ancient archaeological sites. However, the modern casino as a place to find all forms of gambling under one roof didn’t emerge until the 16th century.

While some states have strict antigambling laws, others are embracing this new industry, and the number of legal casinos is increasing worldwide. The United States leads the world with nearly 500 casinos, with Atlantic City, New Jersey and Las Vegas having the highest concentration of them. But casinos are popping up everywhere, from American Indian reservations to remote locales in South America. And while they bring in much-needed revenue, critics say that the negative impact on local economy from compulsive gambling more than offsets any economic benefits they may have.