What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling hall that offers a variety of gambling games and services. It may be as simple as a card table and dice or as extravagant as a hotel with restaurants, spa services and private jets to pick up big gamblers from around the world. The casinos’ built-in advantage (known as the “vig” or “rake”) makes them a profitable venture. It is this money that allows them to build elaborate hotels, fountains and replicas of famous pyramids, towers and other landmarks.

Casinos also spend a great deal of time and effort on security. Casino security begins on the floor, where employees watch over game play and patrons to make sure everything goes as it should. The dealers are especially vigilant, keeping an eye out for blatant cheating such as palming cards or marking and switching dice. Each dealer has a “higher-up” person watching them closely and noting how much their tables are winning or losing.

In addition to security, casino owners pay a lot of attention to customer service and perks that encourage people to gamble more. Many casinos offer free hotel rooms and meals for big gamblers, known as comps. The amount of comps a player receives depends on the type of casino, how much the gambler wagers and whether the player plays slots or table games. Most casinos also have special rooms where gamblers can gamble for tens of thousands of dollars, and these high rollers are given the most attention from the casino staff.

As of 2002, a total of 51 million people in the United States–nearly a quarter of the adult population over 21–visited a casino. Many of these people went to Las Vegas, but others visited other gaming establishments such as Atlantic City, New Jersey and Iowa’s riverboat casinos. Riverboat casinos, unlike traditional land-based ones, are exempt from state anti-gambling laws.

While casino gambling predates recorded history, the modern idea of a single place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble did not develop until the 16th century when a gambling craze swept Europe. Italian aristocrats would gather in private places called ridotti to gamble, and although gambling was technically illegal these ridotti were rarely bothered by authorities. The popularity of these social clubs led to the development of the first casinos.

In the 1980s, real estate investors and hotel chains realized that casinos were a lucrative venture, and began buying out the mob-controlled operations. With federal crackdowns at the slightest hint of mob involvement, these new owners have kept the Mafia at bay. Today, there are more than 3,000 casinos worldwide, including some operated by Native American tribes and some located on Indian reservations, which are not subject to state anti-gambling laws. Some casinos are owned by wealthy individuals such as Donald Trump and the Hilton hotel chain. Others are run by investment banks.