What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment that offers a variety of games of chance. It may also include dining, entertainment and retail facilities. Typically, casinos are owned by private individuals or corporations. Occasionally, they are operated by government agencies. Casinos generate billions of dollars each year for their owners, investors, and customers. They also contribute to local economies through taxes and fees.

The idea of a central facility where people could find all manner of gambling activities under one roof did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze was sweeping Europe. Wealthy Italian nobles would gather in special rooms called ridotti to gamble, drink and socialize, often without being bothered by the authorities.

Modern casinos are designed with an eye toward creating entertainment destinations that draw visitors from across the country and around the world. In addition to the usual games of chance, they offer restaurants, free drinks and stage shows. They are also heavily subsidized by local governments, which in turn reap large tax revenues from their operations.

In 2008, 24% of Americans reported visiting a casino in the previous year. This number is up substantially from 20% in 1989. The typical casino patron is a forty-six-year-old female from an above-average income household. She is most likely to play slot machines, according to Harrah’s Entertainment. Other popular casino games are blackjack, poker and roulette. Asian casinos also feature traditional Far Eastern games such as sic bo, fan-tan and pai gow.

While casinos rely on their glitzy attractions to lure in customers, they also have a dark side. Studies indicate that compulsive gamblers generate a disproportionate share of casino profits, and their addiction harms the economy. In addition, they divert money from other forms of entertainment and reduce productivity.

Gambling has been around as long as records have been kept, from primitive knucklebones and dice to more advanced forms of the game like baccarat. However, casino-type facilities didn’t begin to appear until the early twentieth century in Nevada and Atlantic City. From there, they spread throughout the United States, and later, into American Indian reservations, where they are exempt from state antigambling laws.

The success of casino-style gambling prompted state governments to adopt more relaxed rules, allowing for riverboats and other types of legalized gaming. Some even started allowing for land-based casinos. The most successful casinos have been built near or combined with hotels, resorts and shopping centers. Many are located in major cities, and some are operated by major corporations or investor groups.

Although casinos are based on the principle of chance, some games have a slight statistical advantage for the house. This edge, known as the vig or rake, can be small (less than two percent), but it adds up over millions of bets. The profits from these bets allow casinos to afford their extravagant luxuries, such as elaborate hotels, lighted fountains and replicas of famous pyramids and towers. Despite these glitzy extras, a casino’s primary profit source remains the gambling games themselves.