What Is a Casino?


The word casino conjures up images of glitz and glamour, but the truth is that it’s a money-making machine that relies on a variety of games of chance. Slot machines, poker, blackjack, baccarat, craps and roulette are the bread-and-butter of the modern casino, generating billions in profits for their owners.

Although gambling probably predates history, the first casinos sprang up in Europe during the 16th century. They were called ridotti, and while they often resembled private clubs, they offered a wide range of gambling opportunities to wealthy patrons. In fact, it’s estimated that the casino industry contributes nearly $1 trillion to the economy annually.

As the popularity of gambling grew, organized crime figures began moving into the gaming business. Unlike legitimate businesses, which were wary of gambling’s seamy reputation, mobster money brought a certain cachet to the operations. Mafia members often took sole or partial ownership of the casinos, and they could influence the outcomes of specific games by giving cash to dealers and other employees.

Modern casinos employ a mixture of physical security and specialized surveillance departments. Casino employees are trained to recognize patterns that indicate cheating. For example, the way a dealer shuffles and deals cards, and the positioning of the betting spots on a table, all follow certain patterns that are easily detectable by casino personnel.

Moreover, modern technology is routinely used to monitor the activities of casino patrons. For instance, the chips that casino gamblers use to make their bets have built-in microcircuitry that allows the casinos to monitor the exact amounts being wagered minute by minute; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored to quickly detect statistical deviations from their expected results.