What Is a Casino?


A casino is a public place where various games of chance are played and gambling is the primary activity. While modern casinos add a host of amenities such as restaurants, entertainment, hotels and non-gambling activities to appeal to all ages, they would not exist without the games of chance, which provide the billions in profits that casinos make each year.

In a casino game, patrons gamble by placing wagers against the house on the outcome of a random event. Most games have a mathematically determined advantage for the house, which is usually less than 1 percent. This advantage is sometimes referred to as the “house edge” or expected value. Some games require skill, such as blackjack and video poker. The house takes a percentage of each hand or spin as its commission, called the rake.

Casinos are typically heavily guarded to prevent cheating, stealing and other crimes. They employ numerous security measures, including cameras, and have special areas that monitor card players’ hands to ensure they are visible at all times. Some casinos have high-tech eye-in-the-sky systems that give security personnel a panoramic view of the entire floor from a control room filled with rows of monitors.

Las Vegas casinos were among the first to capitalize on the popularity of gambling in the United States. Until the late 1940s, it was illegal to operate a commercial casino anywhere in the United States except Nevada. As the casino industry expanded in the 1950s, organized crime figures provided the cash to open casinos in Reno and Las Vegas. The mobsters wanted the money to fund their drug dealing and other illegal rackets, but also wanted the prestige of having casinos in their territory.