A casino, also known as a gambling house or a gaming establishment, is an establishment where people can gamble. Its primary purpose is to provide entertainment, though it may also serve other purposes. Some casinos specialize in a particular type of game, such as poker or baccarat. Others offer a variety of games, including slots, video poker, blackjack, roulette, and craps. Most casinos have a security department to prevent theft and other crimes. Modern casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions.
In the United States, casinos are usually licensed and regulated by state governments. Some have a historical association with Native American tribes. Most of the world’s leading casinos are located in Nevada, with a few scattered in other places such as Macau and London.
Many people see a casino as an adult amusement park, with a wide range of musical shows and other entertainment to draw in the crowds. However, the vast majority of a casino’s profits come from gambling. Slot machines, card games like blackjack and poker, and games of chance such as keno and roulette generate billions of dollars in revenue for the owners each year.
While many people enjoy the excitement of gambling, a small percentage is addicted to the activity and can lose huge amounts of money in a short period of time. These people, often referred to as problem gamblers, create an enormous drain on the casino’s financial resources. In fact, studies show that gambling addiction actually deprives a community of any positive economic benefits it might bring in.
Unlike other types of public leisure facilities, which must compete for business by offering free or reduced-fare entertainment to attract customers, casinos can virtually assure themselves of a large profit from each player’s wagers. This profit margin is called the expected value or “house edge” of a game. While some casino games involve an element of skill, most have a long-term house advantage that cannot be overcome by skilled players.
In addition to a physical security force, most casinos have a specialized surveillance department that monitors the casino floor and other areas using closed circuit television. This system, which is sometimes referred to as an eye in the sky, has been instrumental in preventing crime by detecting suspicious or definite criminal activity. In some cases, the cameras can even detect larceny in the act. The cameras are so powerful that they can penetrate the walls of most casinos, allowing the surveillance team to view activities in rooms and at table games from a catwalk overhead. Those who are especially good at certain games or spend large sums of money are often given free hotel rooms, food, limo service, and airline tickets as “comps” for their play. This is one of the reasons that many casinos strive to make their buildings as visually appealing as possible. The elegant spa town of Baden-Baden, for example, features a beautiful casino that was designed to complement the surrounding black forest scenery.