What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where people pay to gamble on games of chance. A modern casino often resembles an indoor amusement park, with musical shows, lighted fountains and elaborate hotels. But while the casino experience aims to keep patrons entertained and on the edge of their seats, it would not exist without games of chance: slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, craps and other table games provide the billions in profits casinos rake in every year.

Casinos make their money by charging a percentage of each bet, called the house edge. That advantage is usually less than two percent, but over millions of bets it adds up to a significant gross profit. In addition to the house edge, casinos make a profit on food and drink sales. In the United States, most casinos are operated by state governments, but some are run by Native American tribes. Some states prohibit gambling altogether, while others have strict laws limiting the number and location of casinos.

Casinos have some unique security challenges. Besides the obvious danger of gambling addicts, casinos must contend with organized crime figures who have plenty of cash from illegal drug dealing and extortion to spend in Reno or Las Vegas. In the past, mob money flowed into casinos and gave them a seamy reputation. Today, mafia involvement in casinos is less pronounced and most casinos have taken steps to shed their image. Casinos now use high-tech security systems to monitor the operations of all tables, chairs and machines. Video cameras watch every inch of the casino floor and can zoom in on suspicious patrons. Computers monitor the results of each game and alert supervisors to any statistical deviations.