What Is a Casino?


A casino is an entertainment center with games of chance, including slots, roulette, blackjack, craps, keno and poker. While a casino’s musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and lavish hotels help draw in customers, the business would not exist without the billions of dollars in profits raked in each year from gambling.

Gambling almost certainly predates written history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in the oldest archaeological sites. The modern casino, however, grew out of the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe and wealthy Italian aristocrats held private parties in structures called ridotti [Source: Schwartz].

Most casinos have an advantage built into their games; this is known as the house edge. The size of this advantage varies by game, but the majority of games have a mathematically determined house edge of around two percent. This small house advantage allows the casinos to pay out winning bets and collect losing ones, resulting in a profit for the casino.

Casinos have a number of measures in place to prevent patrons from cheating or stealing, either in collusion or independently. Security cameras are a standard feature, and some have catwalks in the ceiling that allow surveillance personnel to look directly down on table and slot activities through one-way glass. In addition, some casinos have high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” systems that provide a bird’s-eye view of the entire floor and can be adjusted by security workers to focus on suspicious patrons.