What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people play a variety of games of chance for money. Typically, casinos offer table games like blackjack, roulette and poker; slot machines; and other games of chance such as bingo and craps. They may also include other entertainment options such as restaurants and bars, and often have a luxurious setting. A casino may be a standalone facility or it may be combined with hotels, resorts, retail shops and cruise ships. Some states have laws governing the operation of casinos, while others permit them to operate on American Indian reservations.

Gambling in one form or another probably predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found at archaeological sites. The modern casino, however, developed in the 16th century. At that time, the craze for gambling swept Europe, and wealthy Italian aristocrats would hold parties at places known as ridotti [Source: Schwartz]. These venues were not technically gambling houses, but rather private clubs where patrons could indulge in their favorite pastime. The popularity of these parties spread, and the name grew to mean any establishment where gambling took place.

Most modern casinos are designed to maximize the patrons’ experience by minimizing their awareness of passing time and enticing them with the promise of large prizes such as sports cars or cash. They have carefully designed interiors that evoke a rich and exotic locale, and use lighting to create a mood and atmosphere. In addition, many casinos have themed buffets and restaurants to help draw in patrons.

Some of the best-known casinos are in Las Vegas, which has become an international tourist destination and a center for high-stakes gamblers. The Bellagio, for example, is famous for its dancing fountains and other extravagant decor, and the movie Ocean’s Eleven was filmed in the hotel. Other well-known casinos include the Monte Carlo, located in Monaco; and the elegant spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany.

Regardless of how much they spend, most casino patrons are not likely to win more than they lose, because each game has built-in advantages that guarantee the house a certain level of profit. These gains are often referred to as the “house edge,” and they make it extremely difficult for patrons to beat the casino. In spite of this virtual assurance of profits, most casinos offer lavish inducements to high-stakes gamblers, such as free spectacular entertainment and luxury living quarters.

While casinos bring in revenue, they are not always good for the communities that host them. Studies have shown that compulsive gambling drains local economies by diverting spending from other forms of entertainment, and by reducing the productivity of those who work in the casino industry. In addition, the social costs associated with treating problem gambling and lost wages for those who cannot control their addictions, usually offset any economic benefits a casino may provide. These factors make some local governments cautious about allowing new casinos. However, in some cases, the desire for new business outweighs a community’s concerns.