What Is a Casino?
A casino is an establishment for gambling. It features a wide variety of gambling games, including roulette, blackjack, poker, and video poker. Most casinos also feature concerts and other live entertainment events. Some casinos are located in places that are considered tourist attractions, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. In many countries, casino gambling is legal and is regulated by the government. Some casinos are owned by governments, while others are operated by private companies. Some of the largest casinos in the world are located in Las Vegas, Nevada, although casinos can be found in a number of other locations as well.
Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved knuckle bones discovered in archaeological sites. The modern casino is a relatively recent development, beginning in the 16th century during a gambling craze that spread across Europe. In the United States, legal casino gambling began in Nevada in 1931 and expanded steadily throughout the rest of the country, with Las Vegas as the premier destination.
In modern times, casino games are often automated and monitored by computer systems for fairness and integrity. For example, a machine that deals cards may be programmed to ensure that each deck is shuffled properly; other casino games, such as dice, can be monitored by cameras to detect anomalies. In addition to these technological measures, the majority of casinos use a variety of security personnel to deter cheating or theft by patrons and employees.
While most casinos offer a wide variety of gambling activities, some specialize in specific types of games. For example, the Casino at Monte Carlo offers a number of card games, including baccarat (in its popular variant known as chemin de fer), blackjack, and pai gow. It also features a number of Asian-style games, such as sic bo (which became popular in European and American casinos during the 1990s) and fan-tan.
Slot machines and video poker are the economic mainstays of modern American casinos, generating income by offering high-speed play at sums ranging from five cents to a dollar or more. Table games such as roulette, craps, and baccarat have mathematically determined odds that give the house an advantage over players, but even these games vary in their house edge from casino to casino.
Until the 1980s, most casinos were run by organized crime groups or mob families. But as real estate investors and hotel chains gained control of more casinos, mob involvement waned. Today, many casino owners are politically connected individuals or corporate entities. They are also more willing to spend money on security measures, as the threat of federal prosecution for even the slightest hint of mob involvement can jeopardize their gaming licenses. In general, the net effect of a casino on a local economy is negative, due to the loss of spending by out-of-town tourists and the cost of treating problem gamblers. But some economists argue that if a casino draws enough people to town, it can offset these losses by bringing in tax revenue.