What Is a Casino?


A casino is a public place where a variety of games of chance are played and gambling is the primary activity. The games themselves are usually regulated by law. Some casinos add other forms of entertainment to draw in customers, such as restaurants, stage shows, and dramatic scenery. Many casinos also offer a variety of financial options, including credit cards and eWallets, although withdrawal limits vary greatly.

A centralized computer system keeps track of the bets placed on all games and monitors the results to identify statistical deviations from expected values. This data is compiled into reports and used by management and regulators to control the casino’s risk exposure. The mathematicians and computer programmers who do this work for casinos are called gaming mathematicians or gaming analysts.

While the house edge of most casino games is very small—less than two percent—over millions of bets the house earns enough money to justify building huge hotels, fountains, pyramids and replicas of famous landmarks. Some casinos also charge a commission, known as the vig or rake, to players in games with a skill element, such as poker.

In the 1950s as casino business grew in Nevada, owners sought funds to finance expansion and renovation. The mobsters of organized crime had plenty of cash from their drug dealing, extortion and other illegal rackets and were willing to take the gamble that casino business would become a legitimate industry. Mob money flowed steadily into Reno and Las Vegas, allowing the casinos to expand and renovate at a rapid pace. As the industry became established, American Indian reservations and riverboats began to offer gambling as well.

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