The word casino conjures images of bright lights, big money and a lot of people playing games. From the towering mega-casinos of Las Vegas to tiny mountain towns that have converted former 19th century Wild West buildings into gambling halls, casinos attract tens of millions of visitors and rake in billions of dollars in profits each year. But what exactly is a casino? We’ll take a look at the history of casinos, how they make their money, what to expect when you visit one and the dark side of the business.
Casinos are gambling establishments that offer a wide variety of games of chance to players. Some of these games require skill, while others rely entirely on luck and have mathematically determined odds that always favor the house. These odds are known as the house edge and are built into the rules of each game. In addition to gambling, casinos often offer dining, hotels and other non-gambling entertainment.
Modern casinos are huge facilities with a mindboggling array of games and many other amenities. They often feature restaurants, hotels, non-gambling gaming rooms, bars and even spas. Some are designed to appeal to families, with children’s areas and other facilities for family members. Others are designed to appeal to high rollers, with luxurious suites and services.
Most modern casinos have a variety of security measures to protect patrons and their funds. Some of these include cameras that monitor the casino floor for any suspicious activity. Other security measures include training dealers to watch for blatant cheating like palming, marking and switching cards or dice. Each table game also has a pit boss or manager watching over the game, looking for betting patterns that might indicate cheating.
Because of the mathematically determined odds, most casino games generate a profit for the house. This profit is derived from the commission that the house takes from each wager, plus the vig (vigorish) taken by the dealers on their tips. It is very rare for a casino to lose money on its games, even for a single day.
In addition to focusing on profitability, casinos try to maximize customer satisfaction and keep gamblers happy by offering a variety of perks. These are usually in the form of discounted hotel rooms, free show tickets and other complimentary items. During the 1970s, Las Vegas casinos became famous for their discount travel packages and cheap buffets. They were trying to get as many people into the casino as possible to increase gambling revenue.
In the past, mobster-owned casinos were common. However, in the 1980s and ’90s, real estate investors and hotel chains bought out many of the mob’s holdings and began to run casinos independently. The mob’s tainted image and the potential for losing their gaming license at the slightest hint of mob involvement has kept them away from most modern casinos. Many casinos are owned by wealthy individuals, such as Donald Trump and the Hilton hotel chain.