What Is a Casino?


The casino is a place where people can go to play games of chance and wager money. It may be a fancy, themed building with restaurants, stage shows and other entertainment options but it is, at its core, a gambling establishment. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette and other games of chance are the basis for the billions of dollars in profits casinos rake in each year.

The etymology of the word casino is not entirely clear, but it most likely evolved from the Italian city-state word for “public house” or, in other words, a public hall where musical performances and dancing took place. Casinos in Europe grew out of these and other types of social gathering places. By the late 19th century, gangsters had taken over many of these places, but government crackdowns and fears of losing a gambling license at even the faintest hint of mob involvement eventually forced them to abandon their enterprises. Casino ownership moved into the hands of real estate investors and hotel companies with deep pockets, a trend that continues today.

In addition to the high-tech eye-in-the-sky surveillance systems, casino security personnel watch every table, window and doorway. Some of these workers have specialized knowledge of the games they are guarding, so that they can catch blatant cheating (like palming, marking or switching dice) or other unusual activity. Other casino employees have a more general view of the action and can watch for betting patterns that suggest that someone is trying to manipulate the game.

To help prevent cheating and tampering, casino managers keep detailed records of the amount of money that each patron has won or lost. These records are reviewed regularly to discover any statistical deviation from expected results. Some casinos also use computerized “chip tracking” to keep tabs on the exact amounts of chips being wagered minute by minute. Roulette wheels are electronically monitored to quickly discover any suspicious changes in their spinning patterns.

In order to maximize their profits, casinos must know the house edge and variance of each of their games. This information is derived from mathematical analysis of the rules, the number of decks of cards and other factors. The mathematicians that work for casinos in this field are known as gaming mathematicians and analysts.

Most casinos reward frequent players with free gifts called comps. These can include meals, hotel rooms and tickets to shows. Some casinos even give out airline tickets or limo service to their biggest spenders. The most frequent gamblers are usually forty-something women from households with above average incomes. These are the types of people that casinos target in their advertising and marketing campaigns. They are also the types of people that are most likely to become addicted to gambling.