The word casino is derived from the Latin for “house of games.” Though many casinos feature elaborate themes, shopping centers, musical shows and lavish hotels, the vast majority of their profits are made from gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and keno games provide the billions of dollars in profits that make up the lion’s share of casino income. Aside from the obvious attraction of a chance to win big money, what makes casino gambling unique is its social aspect. People play casino games in groups, and the atmosphere is boisterous and partylike. The lighting is bright, and waiters and waitresses circulate with alcoholic drinks. A typical casino also features a large variety of games that appeal to different tastes.
In the United States, casinos are regulated by state law and vary widely in size, type and layout. Some are megaresorts that rival Las Vegas’ famous strip, while others are smaller facilities built on Indian reservations or other locations not subject to state antigambling laws. The majority of casinos are run by private businesses, investment firms and Native American tribes. However, some state governments allow casino gambling and collect taxes and fees from gamblers to support public services.
Gambling in its various forms has been popular throughout history, starting with the Mesopotamian city-states of Sumer and Egypt. In modern times, people can gamble in land-based casinos, cruise ships or over the Internet. While there are differences in the rules and strategies used for casino games, all have one thing in common-the element of chance.
To attract and keep gamblers, casinos use all manner of tricks. They arrange their game tables in a labyrinthlike fashion to encourage wandering patrons to visit more betting areas. Casinos devote millions of dollars to figuring out what colors, sounds and scents will appeal to people. And they have technology to help them monitor patrons’ movements, winnings and losses.
Historically, mobster money flowed into Reno and Las Vegas casino operations, adding to the gambling establishments’ seamy reputation. But real estate investors and hotel chains with deep pockets bought out the mobsters and started operating their own casinos without the gangsters’ interference. Federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a license at even the faintest hint of mob involvement have kept organized crime out of the casino business for most of the 21st century.
The dark side of the casino business is not as visible as the bright lights and flashy games, but it exists. Besides the obvious problem of people getting too involved with gambling and spending money they can’t afford, casinos must contend with those who try to cheat, steal or scam their way into a jackpot. Security cameras and personnel patrol the premises, and the games themselves are constantly monitored by computers that look for statistical deviations from expected results. Security also pays close attention to the patterns and routines of game players, including how they shuffle and deal cards, how they place their bets and their reactions to other players’ actions.