What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment offering games of chance, as well as food and drink. Some casinos are located within hotels and resorts, while others stand alone. Some casinos specialize in particular types of gambling, such as horse racing or poker. The majority of modern casinos are designed to attract visitors with their amenities and attractions, such as elaborate hotels, fountains and replicas of famous landmarks. They also feature a wide range of gambling games, including slots, table games like blackjack and roulette, and poker. Casinos often provide complimentary items to their patrons, known as comps, or offer free shows and limo service to big gamblers. The house always has a mathematical advantage in all games, regardless of skill level or size of bet, and the percentage of money that is returned to players is known as the payback percentage.

While the precise origin of gambling is unknown, it is believed that people have been making bets on events in which they have little control for thousands of years. The first gambling houses probably developed out of bars and taverns, where bettors could gather to try their luck at dice, card games or other pastimes. In some countries, the government regulates the operation of casinos. In other cases, they are privately owned. In both cases, the house has an edge over the gamblers, which is why many players place bets with a negative expected value (known as the house edge).

In addition to gambling games, some casinos offer other forms of entertainment, such as concerts and comedy acts. Some are themed, such as those built around a pirate ship or a medieval castle. Some are very large, with several floors and dozens of tables. The largest casinos in the world are located in Las Vegas, Nevada and Macau, China.

Modern casinos are heavily guarded against security breaches, and most have multiple cameras monitoring the gaming floor at all times. Some even have a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” system that can view every table, window and doorway from a room filled with bank of monitors.

In the United States, the popularity of casinos has grown significantly since 1978, when the first Atlantic City casino opened. Since then, legal casino gambling has spread to other parts of the country and to American Indian reservations. In 2002, about 51 million Americans—a quarter of the over-21 population—visited a casino. Despite this growth, there are still many antigambling advocates. These opponents argue that casinos encourage people to spend money they don’t have, deprive other businesses of revenue, and cause harm to families through addiction and crime. They also point to studies that show that the net economic impact of a casino is negative. However, supporters claim that the benefits outweigh the costs. In any case, the popularity of casinos has encouraged politicians to make gambling legal in more states. The industry is expanding globally as well.