What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where games of chance and skill are played. It can include massive resorts like Las Vegas’s MGM Grand or small card rooms found in truck stops and even bars and grocery stores. Regardless of their size or location, successful casinos rake in billions each year for the companies, investors and native American tribes that own them. They also provide jobs and tax revenue to state and local governments.

While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers attract the attention of gamblers, casinos would not exist without their primary attraction: gambling games. Slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, craps and keno are all among the many popular games that help casinos earn their billions.

The term casino is thought to have originated from the Italian word casa, meaning “little house.” It later came to refer to any public hall where music and dance were performed. Then, in the second half of the 19th century, it became a name for a particular gaming establishment. By the early 20th century, it had evolved into a general term for any building that featured games of chance and gambling activities.

Despite the fact that gambling was illegal for much of the nation’s history, it has always been present in some form. The first legal casinos were established in Atlantic City and New Jersey, while floating casinos operate on barges on waterways throughout the country. In some states, racetracks have been converted to casinos called racinos.

Modern casinos feature elaborate surveillance systems. Cameras in the ceiling are able to watch every table, window and doorway. They can be adjusted to zoom in on specific patrons by security workers at a separate control room filled with banks of monitors.

In addition to surveillance, casinos rely on technology to supervise the actual games themselves. For instance, roulette wheels and dice have built-in microcircuitry that enables the casinos to oversee the exact amounts of money wagered minute by minute and alert workers when there is a statistical deviation from expected results. Casinos also use special “chip tracking” devices that allow them to follow and record the movements of betting chips.

The typical casino patron is a forty-six-year-old female from a family with above-average income. They prefer to play video poker, blackjack or baccarat. Casinos make their most money in games where patrons compete against each other. They earn their profits by taking a percentage of each pot or charging an hourly fee.

Although casinos are designed to be fun, there is a dark side to the industry that often comes to light only when a problem arises. In the past, the owners of casinos have been known to indulge in corrupt business practices, such as skimming from winning players’ winnings or using their personal information for marketing purposes. As a result, several states have laws against operating casinos unless the operators are licensed and regulated. These laws have helped to keep the number of legal casinos low.