What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment that offers players the opportunity to gamble on games of chance, with some games having an element of skill. Most casinos offer a variety of gambling options, including slots, table games and card games. Some casinos specialize in one or more types of games, such as poker or blackjack. In addition to the game itself, casinos also provide entertainment and food services to their patrons.

There are over 1,000 casinos in the United States and hundreds more around the world. These range from large resort casinos in Las Vegas to smaller neighborhood casinos. The majority of casino games are played on a computer or automated machine, but some are played on live tables and manned by dealers.

The earliest casinos were located in horse racing tracks and riverboats, but the modern industry has grown to include a large number of facilities in cities and towns across the country and around the world. Some casinos are large enough to house multiple restaurants and hotels, while others have standalone gambling halls with just a few slot machines and table games.

Historically, casino gambling was closely associated with organized crime, with the mafia providing both the money and the muscle for early Las Vegas operations. More recently, the industry has moved away from this association and now relies primarily on legitimate businessmen for financing. However, the presence of mob money still gives some casinos a seamy image that has led to a ban on them in several states.

Security is a major concern for casino operators, and it involves more than cameras and electronic monitoring systems. It begins with dealers who keep a close eye on their games and the patrons to spot any blatant cheating or stealing. They follow routines that make it easy for security people to spot when something is out of the ordinary.

In addition to monitoring the floor, security staff analyze statistical data on the games and the patrons to predict their profitability. They calculate the expected return to the casino, or house edge, and track the average amount of money lost per player, or variance. This information is used to make decisions about how much money to spend on advertising, security and other overhead expenses. The mathematicians and computer programmers who do this work for casinos are called gaming mathematicians and analysts.

Although the average casino customer is a middle-aged woman with above-average income, some casinos cater to high rollers who gamble for huge stakes. These customers often get special treatment and amenities, such as free rooms, meals and drinks. They are usually referred to as comps or “freebies.” Casinos also earn a significant portion of their profit from a commission on games like poker, which are played against the house, called the rake. This commission is taken from the pot of money collected after each round of betting. It is also common for casinos to offer free merchandise and other rewards to their most loyal patrons.