A casino is a gambling establishment, offering various games of chance and other forms of entertainment. Some casinos also offer food and beverage services, hotels, and retail shopping. Casinos are usually owned and operated by large commercial enterprises. The word casino is derived from the Latin “caino”, which means “gambling house.” Today’s modern casinos are multimillion-dollar facilities that combine a myriad of entertainment and gambling opportunities with hotels, restaurants, shops and other attractions such as water shows, musical performances and more.
Gambling is only one part of the casino experience, but it remains the heart of their business. Even though lighted fountains, music and extravagant hotel rooms draw in the crowds, casinos wouldn’t exist without games of chance like slots, craps, baccarat, blackjack and roulette that generate the billions of dollars in profits they rake in each year.
Most casino games have a built in advantage for the house. This advantage, typically no greater than two percent, is the reason why casinos are able to make so much money. Casinos earn the difference between the expected value of a wager and the bettors’ winnings by charging a percentage of the money wagered, known as the vig or rake. This can be as little as a few percent or as high as a full percentage of the player’s bankroll, depending on the game and how it is played.
Casino games vary widely around the world, from baccarat (a principal gambling game in France and on the Riviera) to chemin de fer (in the United Kingdom and French casinos) and poker variants such as blackjack and trente et quarante. In some countries, casinos also offer traditional Far Eastern games such as sic bo, fan-tan and pai gow.
The casino business was once dominated by organized crime, and mobster money is still responsible for the lavish hotels, casino-style restaurants and nightclubs that dot the Las Vegas Strip. However, real estate investors and hotel chains soon realized how lucrative the casino industry could be, and they bought out the mobsters. Federal crackdowns and the possibility of losing a license at the slightest hint of mob involvement keep legitimate casino owners well away from mafia money.
Security is a crucial aspect of any casino operation. Dealers monitor the tables and watch out for blatant cheating such as palming or marking cards or dice. The casino staff also closely watches the habits of patrons, noticing patterns that might indicate a problem. In addition, casino security teams routinely patrol the premises and use closed circuit television to watch over all aspects of the casino operations. Often the security team is divided into physical and specialized surveillance departments. The former is responsible for patrolling and responding to calls for assistance, while the latter operates the casino’s closed circuit television system. The two departments work closely together to ensure the safety of both patrons and the company’s assets. Using sophisticated surveillance systems, casino personnel have been able to detect and prevent a number of unauthorized activities.