What Is a Casino?


A casino is a facility for certain types of gambling. Often casinos are combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships and other tourist attractions. In some jurisdictions, the term may also refer to a private club. A casino can also refer to an establishment that is licensed by a government to conduct gaming. This type of license is usually obtained through a lottery or other form of public competition. In the United States, the term casino generally refers to a large hotel and entertainment complex built specifically for gambling.

The idea of casinos originated in the 16th century when a gambling craze swept Europe, prompting Italian aristocrats to hold private parties at small clubhouses called ridotti. Technically, these clubs were illegal, but the gentry did not get bothered by the authorities and the practice thrived. Today, casinos are found worldwide and range in size from tiny, smoky dens to the sprawling Las Vegas megaplexes.

In America, the first legal casinos opened in Nevada in 1978. From there, they spread to Atlantic City and then popped up on American Indian reservations which are exempt from state laws against gambling. As the popularity of casinos grew, many state legislatures changed their laws in the 1980s and 1990s to permit them.

Today, there are more than 3,000 casinos worldwide. The largest of them all is located in Macau, which has become the world’s gambling mecca. Its centerpiece is the Grand Lisboa, which was designed to look and feel like a birdcage. Its exterior is a glittering pyramid of more than a million LED lights and the interior features an incredible array of high-tech games and services.

There are three basic types of casino games: gaming machines, table games and random number games. Gaming machines, such as slot machines, are operated by a computer program and are programmed to return a specific percentage of bets. Table games, such as blackjack and craps, require players to compete against one another and are managed by croupiers (also known as dealers). Random number games, such as bingo, are played with cards or dice that have randomly selected numbers.

While casinos make money by taking a small percentage of all bets placed in them, they never actually lose any money because every game has a built in mathematical advantage for the casino. This statistical edge can be very small — two percent or less, in some cases — but over millions of bets it will earn the casino a gross profit. This virtual assurance of gross profit makes casinos extremely profitable and encourages them to offer big bettors extravagant inducements, such as free spectacular entertainment, transportation, elegant living quarters and more. These inducements are necessary to attract the business of the most sophisticated and wealthy patrons. However, some economic studies show that casinos may actually cause more harm than good to the local community by shifting spending from other forms of entertainment and by increasing the costs of treating compulsive gamblers.

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