A casino is a place where people pay to enter and play games of chance. Although lighted fountains, shopping centers and lavish hotels help draw the crowds, casinos would not exist without the billions of dollars in profits raked in each year by slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno and baccarat. While some games require a certain level of skill, most of the time a casino’s advantage over patrons is mathematically determined and uniformly negative (or expected value). In some cases this is called the house edge.
There are over 3,000 casinos around the world. Many are located in the United States, but there are also casinos in Europe, Africa and Asia. Some are in luxury resorts, while others stand alone. Some are themed, such as the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Others are named after famous cities, such as the Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco and the Casino Lisboa in Lisbon.
The modern casino is typically divided into a physical security force and a specialized surveillance department. The security force patrols the floor, responding to calls for assistance or reports of suspicious or definite criminal activity. The surveillance department operates the casino’s closed circuit television system, sometimes referred to as the “eye in the sky.” The cameras are adjusted by security staff to focus on certain patrons or areas, depending on their needs.
Many casinos offer complimentary items to their customers, a practice known as comping. This can include free meals, hotel rooms and tickets to shows. Other inducements include free or reduced-fare transportation, drinks while gambling and cigarettes. The casino may also provide a credit card that enables its guests to charge their losses to it.
Gambling has a long and colorful history. In the 19th century, many states prohibited it. In the 1970s, some states legalized it, including Nevada and Atlantic City. In the 1980s, American Indian reservations began to open their own casinos. Many of these casinos are in the vicinity of major population centers and have a strong tourist attraction.
In the past, organized crime groups ran many of these casinos. The mafia brought in cash, boosted business and helped keep the casino industry’s seamy image in check. Today, casinos are generally safe, but there is still a dark side to the gambling business. One of the most common illegal activities is money laundering, which involves passing large sums of money from one person to another in order to conceal it. This is often done by employees of the casino, but it can also be performed by customers and even family members. Money laundering is a major concern for casinos, especially those located in the United States. The use of chips instead of cash helps to limit this. It is also easier to monitor casino profits when using chips, which are not physically as appealing to the eye as hard currency. Casinos try to avoid this by limiting cash flow and placing security personnel throughout the facility.