What Is a Casino?


A casino is an entertainment venue that offers various games of chance, including slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps, keno and poker. Although lighted fountains, shopping centers and musical shows are popular draws, casinos would not exist without these games of chance, which account for most of the billions of dollars in profits raked in by casinos every year.

The etymology of the word casino suggests a building or summer house, but it has evolved to mean an establishment that offers a variety of pleasurable activities. While gambling is the centerpiece of any casino, modern-day facilities have gone far beyond that to offer a variety of other amenities for visitors, with each resort competing to be the largest in its region and even in the world.

While gambling certainly predates recorded history, the casino as a place where patrons could find many different ways to gamble under one roof did not emerge until the 16th century. It was then that a gambling craze swept Europe, and Italian aristocrats would often hold parties in places called ridotti, or private clubs where they could play and drink with their friends.

Casinos make money by offering a mathematical advantage to their patrons, which is usually expressed as an expected value, or EV, for each bet placed. This advantage is generally no more than two percent, and it earns the casino enough revenue to justify its enormous investments in elaborate hotels, towering pyramids, lighted fountains and replicas of famous landmarks. Casinos also profit from games where patrons play against each other, such as poker, by charging a commission, known as a rake, or by taking a cut of the pot, called vig, for every bet placed.

Table games are a staple of any casino, and there are countless variations of poker, baccarat and other classics. Craps and keno are also very popular at many casinos, and some have even developed their own unique styles of gameplay. Some tables at casinos feature a combination of table games and electronic gaming devices, such as video poker.

While a casino might seem like an inherently dangerous place, most casinos have extensive security measures to protect both patrons and employees from theft and cheating. These include cameras that monitor the entire property, a system that allows security staff to watch what’s going on at any table through one-way glass, and a variety of other security systems.

The best way to get a feel for the casino’s security is to talk with a host or someone at the information desk about the comp system. The coveted comps, or complimentary goods and services, are given out to players who spend large amounts of time at the table or in the slots. These can range from free hotel rooms to limo service and airplane tickets. The terms of the comp system vary by casino, but it is common for big spenders to receive these perks.