What is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people can gamble and play games of chance. While music shows, lighted fountains, hotels, shopping centers and elaborate themes help draw in the customers, the billions of dollars that casinos make every year would not exist without the games themselves: slot machines, blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and keno. Some games have skill, but most have a built in house edge that ensures the casino will eventually win the majority of bets placed. These odds are mathematically determined and are called the house edge or expected value. The casinos earn money on these bets by charging a commission to players, called the rake or vigorish.

Gambling probably predates written history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in some of the world’s oldest archaeological sites [Source: Schwartz]. But the casino as an institution for gambling did not appear until the 16th century. A gaming craze in Europe at that time led to private clubs for aristocrats, which were known as ridotti, where gambling took center stage. Although technically illegal, the aristocrats were rarely bothered by the authorities as long as they kept their gambling under wraps.

When the casinos opened in Nevada in the 1950s, they quickly became a destination for tourists and organized crime figures. Mobster cash flowed into the businesses, and some mobsters got so involved that they took over entire casinos and even influenced game results with threats of violence against staff members. While mob involvement has waned, the industry has continued to grow.

Casinos rely heavily on technology to ensure fairness and prevent cheating. High-tech surveillance systems allow a security worker to watch every table, window and doorway from a control room filled with banks of monitors. Cameras in the ceiling provide an eye-in-the-sky view that can be adjusted to focus on specific suspicious patrons. In addition, the machines themselves are regularly tested to make sure that they pay out in accordance with their programming.

The casinos also rely on mathematicians and computer programmers to calculate the house edge for each game they offer, and they use this information to adjust the payouts of the slot machines. These experts are known as gaming mathematicians or game analysts. They also analyze the data from each game to discover patterns that might indicate potential problems.

Some casino employees are also trained to spot suspicious behavior, such as when a patron is spending large amounts of money and not winning much, or seems to be trying to manipulate the game’s outcome. The casino’s floor manager will usually warn the player in a discreet manner, but it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to leave the game. In some cases, a casino will allow a player to sit out a few rounds and come back later when they feel safer. This is done to protect both the player and the casino. Some casinos even install special booths in which players can take a short break from gambling.