What Is a Casino?


Casinos are gambling establishments that offer a variety of games of chance. Their profits come from the billions of dollars that people place bets. Some casinos offer spectacular entertainment, golf, spa services and other amenities, but the vast majority of their revenue comes from gambling. A casino’s gambling offerings include slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, and poker.

Casino games are regulated by government agencies to ensure that they operate fairly and that patrons are treated fairly. They are monitored by security staff to prevent cheating, which can occur in many ways, including tampering with game equipment, marking cards, switching dice or even palming. Security officers patrol the casino floor, watching for tampering and suspicious betting patterns, and have access to security cameras that monitor all areas of the casino at once.

Throughout history, casino-style games have sprung up everywhere from the swank Las Vegas strip to the illegal pai gow parlors of New York City’s Chinatown. They attract the kind of crowds that fill shuttle buses crammed with tourists and fill the aisles of private planes flying into Atlantic City. It is estimated that about 51 million people visited a casino domestically and legally in 2002.

The success of the casino industry has spawned a host of imitators and some are very successful indeed. In addition to the usual casino games, a number of exotic or specialty games have developed to satisfy different market segments. These games may focus on regional preferences or on a particular type of player, for example, Asian casinos offer traditional Far Eastern table games such as sic bo, fan-tan and pai-gow.

As a general rule, all casino games have a mathematical expectation of profit for the house. This means that it is impossible for any individual to win more than the casino can afford to pay. To counter this, casinos entice big bettors with extravagant inducements like free or reduced-fare transportation and elegant living quarters.

Casinos have also become increasingly technological in the way they supervise their games. For example, chips with built-in microcircuitry interact with electronic systems to allow the casino to monitor bets minute by minute and to quickly detect any statistical deviation from expected results. Roulette wheels are monitored electronically as well, and video surveillance systems have a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” capability that can focus on suspicious patrons.

Despite their popularity, casino establishments have not been without controversy. For one, the high cost of treating problem gamblers and lost productivity from gambling addicts often cancels out any net economic benefits a casino might bring to a community. In addition, casinos have been criticized for causing a shift in spending from other forms of entertainment and for hurting property values in surrounding neighborhoods. Despite these drawbacks, the casino industry continues to grow. It is a huge business that provides entertainment, jobs and tax revenues for many states.

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