A casino, or gaming house, is a place where people can go to gamble on games of chance. These places are often combined with hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, spas and other entertainment venues. While musical shows, lighted fountains and lavish hotel rooms help draw in the crowds, the billions of dollars a year casinos take in can be attributed mostly to gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat are the games that provide the thrills and profits that keep casinos operating.
Although a small percentage of gamblers win big sums, most players lose money. The mathematically determined odds in most casino games give the house an edge over the patrons, which can be expressed as a negative expectation (or more precisely, a minus-one percent expected value). The casino uses this advantage to cover operating costs and to make a profit. It also rewards the largest bettors with free spectacular entertainment, luxurious living quarters, reduced-fare transportation and so forth.
Modern casinos use a variety of security measures to protect both patrons and assets. These include closed circuit television cameras, which monitor the casino’s premises. A physical security force patrols the floor and responds to calls for assistance or reports of suspicious or definite criminal activity. In addition, some casinos employ a specialized department that operates the casino’s closed circuit television system, which is referred to in the industry as the eye in the sky.
Gambling is a popular pastime that has been practiced by humans for thousands of years. Its precise origin is unknown, but it is believed that civilizations in Asia and Africa may have enjoyed gambling as early as 6000 BC. In modern times, the popularity of casino games has increased dramatically, especially in the United States. Today, the Las Vegas valley has the highest concentration of casinos in the world, followed by Atlantic City, New Jersey and Chicago.
Although legitimate businessmen were initially reluctant to invest in casinos because of their seamy reputation, organized crime figures had plenty of cash from their drug dealing and extortion rackets and were willing to back the ventures with their own funds. The mob controlled a significant portion of the gambling businesses in Reno and Las Vegas until federal crackdowns eliminated the mafia’s financial interest in the enterprises. Since then, major hotel and real estate developers have invested in casinos without mob interference.