What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people play games of chance for money. It may also be called a gambling house, gaming hall or land-based casino. Casinos are often combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants and other entertainment venues. Some casinos host live entertainment such as stand-up comedy, concerts and sports events. The term casino may also refer to a private club or an association of casinos. In some jurisdictions, the term is used to describe a privately owned gaming establishment operated by an individual or family.

While gambling has existed since the beginning of recorded history, the casino as we know it developed in the 16th century. Earlier, gambling occurred in private clubs known as ridotti. These were usually the homes of wealthy European aristocrats, who enjoyed gambling for its social aspect as much as for the chance to win money.

In modern times, the gambling industry is massive. According to the American Gaming Association, about 51 million people—a group that includes a quarter of all Americans over 21—visited a casino in 2002. Whether they gambled on the Strip in Las Vegas, in a pai gow parlor in New York’s Chinatown or in an Iowa riverboat, most visitors left the casinos with at least some winnings.

Most casino gambling takes place on a floor where customers bet against the house, either in games such as poker or by placing bets on tables that have a fixed payback percentage. A few games require a certain degree of skill, such as roulette and blackjack, but most have mathematical odds that ensure the house will win the vast majority of the time. This advantage is referred to as the “house edge.”

Casinos earn most of their profits from the percentage of bettors they can get to play. High-stakes players generate the most revenue for casinos, so they are offered extravagant inducements, such as free spectacular entertainment and luxurious living quarters. Even lesser bettors are given free drinks and cigarettes while gambling, reduced-fare transportation and other perks.

Because of the large amounts of currency handled within a casino, cheating and stealing by patrons are a constant threat. Despite this, most casinos have sufficient security measures to keep these incidents to a minimum.

Gambling is an addictive activity, and compulsive gamblers can cause a great deal of harm to themselves and their families. In fact, studies have shown that the net economic contribution of a casino to its community is negative, because it diverts local spending from other entertainment and actually reduces jobs and tax revenues. In addition, the cost of treating problem gambling and lost productivity by gambling addicts offsets any monetary gains from the casino. This has led some governments to ban gambling or restrict its availability in some ways. However, others encourage it as a way to stimulate the economy and increase employment opportunities. Casinos can be found all over the world. From the ultra-luxurious in Macau to the legal pai gow parlors in Nevada, these gambling houses are a fascinating and popular pastime for millions of people.