What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment that uses games of chance to generate billions in profits for the owner. Though musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers are a big part of the attraction, casinos wouldn’t exist without slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and other gambling favorites. Compulsive gamblers, meanwhile, bring in a huge percentage of casino profits and can cause substantial economic damage to their local communities.

The modern casino owes its origin to Las Vegas, which began drawing in tourists after state lawmakers legalized gaming. Soon, other cities and states wanted a piece of the action, from Iowa’s riverboat casinos to New Jersey’s Atlantic City. By the early 1990s, a full-scale casino boom had erupted across the United States.

Today’s casinos are a little less glamorous than the flashy resorts on the Strip in Nevada, but they still offer plenty to keep you entertained—and profitable—while you’re there. For example, they’re packed with slot machines, and each one has a built-in advantage of around 1.5 percent to 2 percent, depending on the game. In the era of electronic surveillance, many casinos now use computers to monitor and supervise the games themselves. For example, betting chips are connected to systems that allow the casino to know precisely how much is wagered minute by minute and detect any statistical deviations quickly.

Like other businesses, casinos have to guard against the potential for fraud and theft. The large amounts of money handled within a casino create tempting opportunities for patrons and employees to cheat or steal, in collusion or on their own. Because of this, casinos rely on security measures that include cameras located throughout the building.