What Is a Casino?

Essentially, a casino is an entertainment complex that specializes in games of chance. Though musical shows, lighted fountains, extravagant hotels and elaborate themes help draw in the crowds, casinos would not exist without their primary attraction: gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, poker and roulette bring in billions of dollars in profits for casinos every year.

A casino’s edge may be only a couple percent, but over the millions of bets placed each day, it adds up to a substantial profit that allows them to cover the cost of their attractions. The casino’s advantage is known as the “vig” or “rake.”

Gambling in a modern casino is heavily regulated by both state and federal governments. Casinos are monitored closely by security personnel and often have cameras in every room and on the casino floor. Elaborate systems offer an “eye-in-the-sky” that lets staff monitor the entire building at once or hone in on specific suspicious patrons. Casinos also have pit bosses and table managers for each game, who are trained to spot blatant cheating like palming or marking cards or switching dice.

While mobsters once controlled most of the world’s casinos, real estate investors and hotel chains bought out many of them during the 1980s, freeing them from mob control. Today, most casinos are owned by corporations with deep pockets and a desire to maximize the revenue potential of their properties. For example, the Hilton hotel chain owns several casinos and rewards its big spenders with free hotel rooms, free show tickets, free meals and reduced-fare transportation and airline tickets.