What Is a Casino?

A casino is a gambling establishment with a wide range of games for patrons to choose from. These include blackjack, roulette, craps, poker and more. Many casinos also offer a variety of other entertainment such as shows, concerts and sports. Many states have legalized casinos to attract tourists and increase their economic base. However, some people argue that the overall net effect of a casino is negative to the local community. Critics point to the cost of treating compulsive gamblers as well as the loss of tax revenues from the gambling industry.

While primitive gambling devices such as carved knuckle bones and ape-like dice can be found at archaeological sites, the casino as an organized institution did not appear until the 16th century during a European gambling craze. During this period, wealthy Italians met in private clubs called ridotti to gamble. Although technically illegal, these places were rarely bothered by the Italian Inquisition. The casino as an idea spread to France, where the first modern game of chance was developed, and later to Germany, where an elegant spa town called Baden-Baden became a popular gambling destination for royalty and aristocracy.

Modern casinos are highly automated and use a variety of tricks to lure in customers. The most obvious is the bright lights; more than 15,000 miles of neon tubing are used to light up the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. The flashing lights and clang of coins bouncing around on the table are designed to stimulate the senses of sight and sound and keep players gambling longer. Casinos are also designed to keep customers playing by offering them comps (free things). For example, players who regularly play blackjack and roulette can get free meals and drinks. Casinos also track player habits by electronic means. Patrons swipe a card before each game to record their activity, and the cards are usually redeemed for cash or credit after a certain amount of play.

A more subtle technique is the use of patterns. The routines of games such as blackjack and poker follow specific patterns, and security personnel can quickly spot any deviations from these expected behaviors. Security is augmented by cameras located throughout the building and monitored in a special room filled with banks of monitors.

While casinos are designed to maximize profits by drawing in large numbers of visitors, they must balance this against the expense of keeping those patrons gambling as long as possible. A disproportionate percentage of the profits generated by casino gambling is made up by gamblers who are addicted to the activity. These players make a huge contribution to the overall revenue of the casino, but they also subtract from the economy by diverting money from other sources of recreation and by increasing health care costs. For this reason, some state legislators are proposing to limit the number of gaming machines in their jurisdictions. Others are promoting socially responsible gambling initiatives that aim to reduce the number of problem gamblers and increase the percentage of revenue from non-gambling activities.