What Is a Casino?


A casino is an establishment for certain types of gambling. It is also known as a gaming house or a card room. Casinos are often combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shops and entertainment venues. In some countries, casinos are licensed and regulated by government agencies.

The casino at Monte-Carlo first opened in 1863, and became the model for modern gambling facilities worldwide. Today, the world’s most famous casinos are in Las Vegas and Monaco, although several European cities have casino gambling as well.

Unlike other forms of gambling, in which the player’s skill or luck determines the outcome, in a casino, the odds are against the player. This is a fundamental concept that differentiates the game from lotteries and Internet gambling. Casinos are designed to maximize noise and light and to provide an atmosphere of excitement, especially when players are crowded together in poker rooms or at the craps tables. During these activities, patrons frequently shout encouragement to one another. Waiters circulate with alcoholic beverages, which are usually free, to encourage gamblers.

Something about gambling seems to inspire people to try to cheat, steal or con their way into a win. In order to counter this tendency, casino operators devote a great deal of time and money on security. They also use perks that are designed to encourage gamblers to spend more money. These “comps” can include anything from free hotel rooms to buffet or show tickets.

In the past, many casinos were owned by organized crime figures who used their gambling profits to finance other illegal rackets. As legalized gambling spread to the United States in the 1950s, legitimate businessmen shunned casinos because they carried the taint of mob activity. This left the casinos to be run by mobsters, who took sole or partial ownership of the properties and exerted considerable influence over operations.

As casinos moved from the underground to the mainstream, their owners sought ways to improve security and attract a more upscale clientele. They began offering comps to frequent customers in addition to discounted hotel rates and free show tickets. Casinos also increased their use of technology to monitor and supervise games. For example, some betting chips have built-in microcircuitry that enables casinos to oversee the exact amounts wagered minute by minute; roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviation from the expected results.

These examples have been automatically selected from various online sources and may not be representative of the opinions of Merriam-Webster or its editors. We appreciate your feedback: let us know if you find an error in one of these examples. Copyright 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ‘casino’ is from the Italian word for ‘house of games’. The word is also related to the Latin ‘casus’, meaning a meeting place or headquarters. The word entered English in the early 20th century, probably via French, and was adopted by other languages as well.