What Is a Casino?


A casino is an establishment that offers a variety of games of chance and other pleasurable activities for people looking for a break from everyday life. While lighted fountains, shopping centers and elaborate hotels help draw in patrons, casinos would not exist without gambling and the billions of dollars in profits raked in every year by slot machines, blackjack, roulette, poker, craps, keno and baccarat.

The term casino is believed to be derived from the Latin word for “house,” meaning a room where games are played. It is thought that the earliest forms of gambling took place in palaces and other private places where people could enjoy themselves while taking their chances at dice, cards, and other games. Today, most casino buildings are designed to provide patrons with the maximum possible pleasure from their time spent there. This includes gaming facilities, prime dining locations and performance venues featuring renowned artists such as rock, jazz and stand-up comedians.

In the early days of casino gambling, organized crime figures brought mobsters to Reno and Las Vegas. Mob money provided the bankroll for casinos, and gangsters became personally involved in their operations, taking sole or partial ownership of several casinos and even using their muscle to influence the results of some games. However, federal crackdowns on mob influence in the casinos combined with the prospect of losing a gaming license at even the slightest hint of mob involvement soon drove the Mafia out of the business.

Modern casinos are a virtual amusement park for adults. They feature dazzling lights, giant pyramids, towers and replicas of famous landmarks. The majority of the entertainment, though, comes from games of chance. Each game has a built in advantage for the casino, known as the house edge. It can be as low as two percent, but over the millions of bets placed each year by casino patrons, it adds up to big money.

Most games of chance are played with paper tickets or chips. Each ticket or chip is assigned a value based on the type of game and its payouts. The value of a ticket or chip can be exchanged for cash, hotel rooms, meals and other prizes at the casino. Casinos also offer comps to players who play regularly, based on their total amount of money wagered.

Gambling is a popular pastime for most Americans, and many of them visit their local casinos on a regular basis. The average casino gambler is a forty-six-year-old female from a household with an above-average income. According to a 2005 survey by Roper Reports and the U.S. Gaming Panel, the vast majority of casino gambling takes place in Nevada. However, other states have begun opening their own casinos to capitalize on this trend. In many cases, these new casinos are located close to major airports in order to attract tourists from across the United States and beyond. In addition to traditional casinos, some states have also created riverboat and Native American casinos.