A casino is a gambling establishment where a variety of games of chance are offered and where gambling is legal. These establishments may be located within a hotel/resort, in a separate building or on a cruise ship. Most casinos offer a range of games like poker, blackjack, baccarat and roulette. Some casinos also feature other forms of entertainment, such as stage shows and restaurants. Casinos are governed by gaming commissions, which monitor operations and ensure that players’ money is safe.
Generally, casino games have an element of luck and skill, but they are mostly based on chance. The house always has an advantage over the players, which is known as the “house edge.” Occasionally, certain games will have a more favorable house edge than others. For example, the game of craps has a low house edge, while the game of roulette has a high one.
In addition to offering a variety of gambling opportunities, modern casinos often provide food and drinks, merchandise and other services to their customers. Many of these services are free of charge to patrons, while others require a payment. Players can usually earn comps (free goods or services) based on their level of play and the amount they spend. These comps can include everything from free meals and hotel rooms to limo service and airline tickets.
Until the late 1950s, most casinos in the United States were owned by organized crime figures or their fronts. Mob money supplied the bankrolls for these operations, and mobsters controlled their operation and sometimes even the outcome of individual games. However, as a result of federal crackdowns and the threat of losing their gambling licenses, legitimate businessmen such as real estate investors and hotel chains got into the casino business, bought out the mobsters and turned casinos into major businesses with lucrative profits.
The modern casino typically has a security department, staffed with professional guards who patrol the premises and respond to calls for assistance or reports of suspicious or definite criminal activity. In addition, a specialized surveillance department operates the casino’s closed circuit television system, which is commonly known as an eye in the sky.
Some of the more luxurious casinos also have catwalks in the ceiling above the gambling floors, which allow security personnel to look directly down on the tables and slots from above. These cameras can be focused on specific patrons and are adjusted by security workers in a control room away from the main floor. Some casinos also have electronic monitoring of the gaming activities, utilizing special chips with built-in microcircuitry that interact with the casino’s systems to allow supervisors to see exactly how much is being wagered minute by minute, and to immediately discover any anomalies. The electronic surveillance systems used in modern casinos are often quite sophisticated, and are designed to detect a wide range of illegal activities. For example, they can detect attempts to cheat by tampering with the dice or cards.