What Makes a Casino Special?


In a casino, people can gamble on a wide variety of games of chance. There are also other activities, such as restaurants and stage shows, that make casinos more than just places where people can place bets. The defining characteristic of a casino is that it is intended to draw in large numbers of people and to encourage them to spend money. To do this, they offer a variety of incentives and perks. The word casino comes from the Latin cazino, meaning “little house.” The first casinos were small, residential buildings where people could play games of chance. Today’s casinos are much larger and more elaborate, but the basic idea remains the same.

There are no hard figures on how many people visit casinos worldwide, but the number is certainly in the millions. The United States has the most casinos, with a concentration in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In addition, many American Indian reservations have casinos. There are also some in other countries, including China.

Despite the glitz, glamour and excitement that casino culture has come to represent, gambling is still a serious business. In 2002, about 51 million Americans visited a casino to gamble, which amounts to a quarter of all adults over 21. These visitors spent more than $26 billion. That makes casinos a vital source of income in the United States, even if they are not always profitable.

In the twenty-first century, casinos are choosier about who they allow to gamble in their establishments. They are especially careful about high rollers, who make the bulk of the revenue in some casinos. These individuals are allowed to gamble in special rooms away from the main floor, and they often receive comps (free things) that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. They also have the option of hiring private escorts and other VIP services.

Casinos are built to make money by taking advantage of the statistical edge that their games possess over the bettors. The difference between the odds of winning and losing, called the house edge, can be very small—lower than two percent—but it adds up over the millions of bets placed in casinos each year. This money allows them to construct grandiose hotels, fountains and replicas of famous landmarks.

In addition to their buildings and equipment, casinos also use technology to enforce their rules of fair play and ensure the integrity of their operations. Video cameras are used throughout the facilities, and employees patrol the floor to spot cheating or theft by patrons. In some casinos, betting chips have microcircuitry that interacts with electronic systems to monitor the amount of money wagered minute by minute. Some casinos also employ “chip tracking,” which records the exact location of each chip on the gaming table. This helps casinos keep track of the amount of money being wagered by individual patrons and prevents them from colluding to hide winning bets. These security measures are in addition to the rules of fair play and other regulations that patrons must agree to abide by.