What Is a Casino?
A casino is a public place where various games of chance can be played and where gambling is the primary activity. While elaborate hotels, musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers help draw in visitors, casinos would not exist without games such as blackjack, poker and slot machines that provide the billions of dollars in profits they rake in each year.
While the house always has a long-term edge over individual players, some games allow for short-term gains that are highly dependent on skill. These skilled gamblers are called advantage players. Some casinos also employ countermeasures to reduce their edge over players, such as a built-in vigorish or “house edge” in table games, and chip tracking systems to monitor and warn of deviations from expected results.
In the United States, there are around 1,000 casinos. In 2002, about 51 million people—about a quarter of all Americans over 21—visited a casino, according to the American Gaming Association. Many of them were not merely spectators; they were active participants, spending an average of five hours playing games such as blackjack and roulette. In addition, they received comps (free hotel rooms, meals and show tickets) based on the amount of money they spent.
Casinos are often associated with organized crime. Mob figures financed the growth of Las Vegas in the 1950s and helped establish Reno as America’s gaming capital, even though the city’s gambling operations were still illegal in other states. While the mobsters provided the bankroll, they also were personally involved in the businesses, taking sole or partial ownership of several casinos and exerting influence over operations through their control of key employees.