What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people can gamble and play games of chance. Although some casinos add luxury features such as restaurants, free drinks and stage shows to attract customers, a casino is fundamentally a place where people can take risks with their money. The word casino is derived from the Latin castra, meaning “cave” or “den of thieves.” In modern times, casinos are often combined with hotels and resorts to form gambling complexes. They may also be found in places such as cruise ships, airplane hangars and racetracks. Casinos earn billions of dollars each year from the players who visit them. These profits benefit the owners, investors and Native American tribes who own them as well as state and local governments that collect taxes and fees on them.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice being discovered in some of the world’s oldest archaeological sites. However, the casino as a place to find many different types of gambling under one roof did not develop until the 16th century. During this time, European aristocrats often gathered at private clubs called ridotti to gamble and socialize. Though technically illegal, the wealthy were rarely bothered by legal authorities as long as gambling was not taking place in public.

The modern casino is a heavily regulated, high security establishment that monitors its patrons to prevent cheating. Table managers and pit bosses oversee table games with a close eye, noticing any blatant cheating such as palming or marking cards or switching dice. The casino also keeps an eye on its slot machines, observing patterns in betting that might indicate attempts to manipulate the machine’s outcome. The use of technology has dramatically increased in the 1990s, with casino employees regularly monitoring game results using video cameras and computerized systems.

Casinos make their money by charging a small percentage of each bet placed on a casino game. This is known as the house edge, and it can vary from game to game. The advantage is small, usually less than two percent, but it can add up quickly when millions of bets are made each year.

In addition to the house edge, a casino’s revenue comes from other sources such as food, drinks and hotel services. These revenues are used to pay the wages of dealers, pit bosses and other casino staff as well as to fund the large overhead expenses that include utilities, maintenance and security.

Although the average casino customer is male and over forty, the demographics are shifting. Senior citizens, who typically have more vacation time and disposable income than younger adults, now account for a larger percentage of casino patrons. This shift has led some casinos to focus more on attracting these high rollers, offering them comps that can be worth thousands of dollars or more. This strategy has also allowed some casinos to expand into new geographic markets. In the United States, for example, casinos have opened in places such as Indian reservations and riverboats and have expanded into racetracks to create racinos.