What Is a Casino?


A casino is an adult amusement park where the vast majority of the entertainment and the profits are generated by gambling. While dazzling shows, lighted fountains and lavish hotels help to draw the crowds, it is games of chance such as blackjack, roulette, craps and slot machines that generate the billions in profit that casinos bring in every year.

While some games of chance involve a minimal amount of skill, most are simply games of pure luck. The mathematically determined odds for each game give the house an advantage of a few percent or less over the average player. This edge, known as the house edge, provides a source of income for casinos that is far in excess of the cost of running the facility. It is this revenue that allows casinos to build giant pyramids, towers and replicas of famous landmarks and create elaborate hotel suites with the latest high-tech amenities.

Most casino games are played against the house, although some require skill and can be played against other players as well. Table games such as blackjack and poker are conducted by live dealers. Slot machines use random number generators to produce combinations of symbols on their reels. Casinos are found in massive resorts and in small card rooms that open in bars, restaurants, or truck stops. Some states allow casinos on barges and riverboats, while others have laws restricting their operations to Native American reservations.

Because the average casino patron gambles within an established limit, it is rare for a casino to lose money on any one day. This virtual assurance of gross profit allows casinos to offer big bettors extravagant inducements such as free spectacular entertainment and transportation, free luxurious living quarters, reduced-fare or free hotel room service, complimentary drinks and cigarettes while gambling, and other rewards. In addition, casinos make a substantial amount of money from the vig or rake they take on games of chance such as poker and blackjack, as well as the fee they charge for using their credit cards.

To monitor and control these activities, casinos rely heavily on technology. Cameras in the ceiling, often positioned to look down on tables and slot machines, provide surveillance personnel with an “eye-in-the-sky” view of the entire casino. These cameras can be adjusted to focus on specific patrons and are monitored by security workers in a separate room filled with banks of screens. Computers also supervise each game, checking the exact amounts wagered minute by minute and warning staff if they detect a statistical deviation from expected results. In addition to monitoring the integrity of gambling, casino technicians are responsible for maintaining the complex equipment that makes up a modern casino. They also maintain the dozens of specialized computers that calculate odds for each game and determine payout percentages for video poker and slot machines. This specialized technology has ushered in an era of high-tech gaming that includes such innovations as chip tracking, which allows casinos to keep track of the exact amounts of money that are placed on each table at any given time.