Casinos are a lot like indoor amusement parks for adults. They offer musical shows, lighted fountains, restaurants and shopping centers but they exist mainly to draw in visitors to gamble for money. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette and a host of other games provide the billions in profits casinos rake in every year.
Gambling has been around for as long as humans have, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice turning up in archaeological sites. However, the casino as a place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Italian aristocrats would meet at private clubs called ridotti to play their favorite game. Although technically illegal, the aristocrats were rarely bothered by authorities.
The modern casino is often modeled on the European version, with roulette, craps and baccarat the most popular games. The popularity of these and other games has led to a huge increase in the number of casinos across the globe, with most of them offering more than the classics.
Aside from the usual gaming tables and slots, most casinos also feature a wide range of traditional Far Eastern games. These include sic bo (which spread to several European and American casinos during the 1990s), fan-tan, and pai gow. Other games of local interest may also be found in certain casinos, such as two-up in Australia, banca francesa in Portugal, boule in France, and kalooki in Britain.
Casinos make their money by taking advantage of the fact that each game has a built in statistical advantage for the house. This edge can be small, sometimes lower than two percent, but it adds up over time and millions of bets. This “house edge” provides enough revenue to pay for extravagant inducements for big bettors, such as free spectacular entertainment, luxurious transportation, and elegant living quarters. Even smaller bettors are offered reduced-fare transportation, free drinks and cigarettes while gambling and other inducements.
While casino owners love to lure in visitors with lavish inducements, most gamblers are drawn by the allure of winning a jackpot. But the thrill of gambling can turn into a nightmare when compulsive players lose more than they win. This is why casinos spend so much time, money and effort on security, employing trained personnel to spot potential cheats. These personnel are also trained to recognize patterns, such as the way that dealers shuffle and deal cards, and expected reactions and motions at a table. These are all things that can give away a cheating player, so casinos have plenty of cameras and other surveillance equipment looking for anything out of the ordinary. They are also well aware that many of the same patterns and behaviors are repeated over and over, so it is easy for trained security staff to spot a cheater.