What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people can gamble by playing games of chance. Some games require skill, but most of them are pure chance. Usually, the house has a built-in advantage over players, which is known as the house edge. To reduce this edge, casinos sometimes give patrons free items or services, known as comps. Other inducements are discounted hotel rooms and limo service. A casino can also be a place that hosts live entertainment, such as stage shows.

The word casino comes from the Italian “casona,” which means small clubhouse. The first modern casinos appeared in Europe after World War II, and many of them were in Italy. In the United States, Las Vegas and Atlantic City have the largest concentrations of casinos. The number of casinos in the United States has increased dramatically since legalized gambling began in the 1980s. Native American casinos have also increased in number.

Casinos can be a source of controversy. Some people see them as a source of social problems, such as crime and addiction. Others see them as economic benefits, generating jobs and tax revenues. A significant portion of casino profits comes from compulsive gamblers, who generate a much higher proportion of casino earnings than other gambling patrons. This disproportionate share of profits leads some politicians to oppose the expansion of casinos.

Gambling has been popular in most societies throughout history. Although the precise origin of gambling is unknown, it is generally believed to have evolved from a combination of primitive hunting and gathering activities, with an increasing emphasis on chance and the development of more complex rules. The oldest recorded game was probably a form of lottery, and the Chinese may have invented the game of Mahjong in the 12th century.

Some modern casinos are designed to resemble the interiors of palaces, with vaulted ceilings and rich carpeting. Often, the casino floor is dimmed to enhance the sense of mystery and luxury. The Bellagio in Las Vegas is one such example.

Because of the large amounts of money handled within casinos, both patrons and staff may be tempted to steal, either in collusion or independently. To counter this, most casinos have extensive security measures in place. These range from cameras located throughout the casino to sophisticated systems for supervising the games themselves. For example, the chips used in table games have built-in microcircuitry that enables casinos to track bets minute by minute; roulette wheels are monitored electronically to discover any statistical deviation from their expected values. These systems are increasingly being used to supervise other aspects of the operation as well, such as card play. Nevertheless, the most effective security measure is a human presence. This is why most casinos employ security guards in addition to surveillance equipment. Security guards are trained to spot suspicious behavior and be alert to the potential for cheating and stealing. Security guards are also trained to recognize the emotional and behavioral telltale signs of problem gambling.