What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people can gamble and play games of chance. Casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shops, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions. Some casinos also feature live entertainment such as stand-up comedy or concerts. The precise origin of gambling is not known, but it is believed to have been present in most societies throughout history.

During the 1990s casinos dramatically increased their use of technology. The most visible change is the addition of high-tech surveillance systems that offer a bird’s-eye view of the entire casino floor. These “eyes in the sky” are able to track the movements of all patrons and can be adjusted to focus on specific suspicious individuals. Casinos have also adopted technological innovations that supervise the games themselves. For example, in “chip tracking,” betting chips have built-in microcircuitry that interacts with electronic systems at the tables to allow casinos to oversee the exact amounts wagered minute by minute and to be warned quickly of any statistical deviation from expected results.

Another important aspect of casino security is the development of mathematical models that predict the probability of winning at each game. These models are used by gaming mathematicians and computer programmers who are sometimes called gaming analysts. In many cases, casinos contract with these experts to produce the models they need to make the right decisions about game rules and payouts.

In the United States, the American Gaming Association estimated that 51 million people — or about one quarter of Americans over 21 — visited a casino in 2002. The majority of those visitors were in Nevada, where the famous Las Vegas Strip is located. The industry is a major source of revenue for the state.

The most popular casino games are blackjack, roulette, and poker. In blackjack, the house edge is less than 2 percent for most games, and there is a lot of strategy involved in playing the game well. Roulette is a favorite among high rollers, and some casinos reduce the house advantage to less than 1 percent to entice them. Craps, on the other hand, attracts large bettors and can give a big return on investment for the casino.

Although casino gamblers come from all walks of life, the typical casino visitor is a forty-six-year-old woman from a household with above average income. According to a survey by Harrah’s Entertainment in 2005, this demographic represents a substantial portion of the casino industry’s customer base and is growing rapidly. This growth is due in part to the fact that more and more women are becoming interested in gambling as a form of entertainment. A smaller but significant percentage of casino patrons are men. In general, most men are not as interested in gambling as women, but they are more likely to visit a casino when their friends and family members are there. This trend may be due to the perception that gambling is a social activity.