What Is a Casino?


A casino is a public place where games of chance are played and gambling is the primary activity. Many casinos offer additional luxuries, such as hotels, restaurants and non-gambling game rooms to attract gamblers, but the basic attraction is always gambling. Casinos come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, but they all contain a large number of games that are regulated by state law.

Gambling in its various forms has been popular throughout history. It is believed that early Mesopotamian societies and the Greeks, Romans and French were involved in gambling. In modern times, the United States legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City in 1978. Since then, several states have amended their anti-gambling laws to permit casino gambling, and many American Indian reservations now have casinos.

The word casino is derived from the Italian word casona, which means “cloister.” Originally, it was used to refer to a private clubhouse for Italian gentlemen. Later, the term was adapted to include any public place that offered gambling. Today, casino refers to a gambling establishment that offers table games like blackjack and roulette, as well as slot machines, video poker and other electronic games. In addition, some casinos feature stage shows and dramatic scenery to add to the atmosphere.

Although the games in a casino are designed to be random, there is always the possibility that a player may cheat or steal. For this reason, casino security is an enormous concern. Elaborate surveillance systems have evolved that allow security workers to watch every table, window and doorway in the entire building from a room filled with rows of monitors. These cameras can be adjusted to focus on certain suspicious patrons by security personnel at the controls in a separate room.

Because of the mathematical expectation that a casino must make a profit on each game, it is very rare for a casino to lose money for even one day. This virtual assurance of profit motivates casinos to lavish high bettors with free spectacular entertainment, luxury travel, fine living quarters and reduced-fare transportation. Lesser bettors receive comped hotel rooms, food and drinks while they gamble.

The most famous casino in the world is Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Designed by architect Jay Samo in the 1960s, it is modeled after a Roman palace and has hosted a roster of star performers that includes Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton. Other casinos around the world are named after cities, states or other places. Some are themed after fictional locations, such as Las Vegas, the Wild West or the Far East. Still others are based on famous landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal. In some cases, the name is simply a brand name that makes the casino more recognizable. Some of the biggest casino companies include Harrah’s, Caesars and William Hill. Their brands can be found in a multitude of land-based casinos as well as online. There are also independent, privately owned casinos located in many countries worldwide.