What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people can gamble on various games of chance. The games may have a skill element, as in poker or blackjack, or they can be pure chance, such as with roulette or keno. In addition to gambling, casinos often offer other forms of entertainment, such as stage shows and free drinks. Casinos can be found in large resorts like Las Vegas or in smaller places such as card rooms. Casino-type game machines are also installed at racetracks to create racinos. Many states have legalized casinos, and they bring in billions of dollars each year for the owners, investors, and state and local governments.

Although gambling probably predates written history, the casino as a central venue for a variety of games under one roof was developed in Europe in the 16th century during a gaming craze. Previously, Italian aristocrats would gather at private houses called ridotti for social occasions and to gamble. The term casino comes from the Latin word for “house.”

Casinos are supervised to prevent cheating, theft, and other problems. Security personnel patrol the floor and watch patrons to ensure that games are played fairly. Pit bosses and table managers oversee the tables with a broader view, looking for patterns that could indicate cheating. Casinos are also equipped with technology that allows them to monitor their operations more closely. In particular, some betting chips have built-in microcircuitry that can be scanned to track the amounts wagered minute by minute; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviations from their expected results.

The success of a casino depends on its ability to attract and keep customers. The simplest way to do this is by offering free goods and services, known as comps. These can include food, beverages, hotel rooms, tickets to shows, and limo service. The more a customer spends, the higher his or her status as a “good” patron and the better his or her comps. High rollers, for example, receive luxury suites and lavish personal attention.

Despite their glamorous image, casinos are not without controversy. In addition to the obvious problem of addiction, they can take money away from other local businesses and divert resources from addressing community needs. Some economists argue that the net value of a casino to a region is actually negative, because the money lost by compulsive gamblers counteracts any positive economic impact the casino might have.

Casinos are regulated by state laws and must adhere to strict regulations to protect their customers. In addition to ensuring that the games are fair, they must also provide adequate staffing and security measures. Because of the large sums of money handled within casinos, both patrons and employees may be tempted to cheat or steal. Fortunately, most casinos have measures in place to deter such behavior. Some of these are simple, such as surveillance cameras throughout the facility. Others are more elaborate, such as catwalks in the ceiling that allow security personnel to look down, through one-way glass, on activities at tables and slot machines.