What is a Casino?

A casino is a public place where people can play games of chance for money. Its customers gamble by placing bets on various outcomes of a game of chance, and the house takes a small commission on winning bets called a “rake” or “vig.” The games of chance — blackjack, roulette, craps, keno, poker — have mathematically determined odds that ensure a casino has a consistent advantage over players. This mathematical expectation is sometimes referred to as the house edge or expected value, and it gives casinos the virtual guarantee of gross profit on all bets placed by patrons.

Casinos make money by converting some of the riskiest bets into the most profitable ones, and they attract big bettors by offering them extravagant inducements, such as free spectacular entertainment, luxury hotel rooms, reduced-fare transportation, meals and drinks while gambling. The casino’s architecture and decoration reflects this glamorous image.

In the beginning, organized crime figures bankrolled most of the first casinos. Mafia gangsters had lots of cash from extortion and other rackets, and they were not afraid to invest it in the seamy business of gambling. As the casino business grew, legitimate businesses realized its potential and began investing in them. Real estate investors and hotel chains bought out the mobsters, and federal laws now make it difficult for organized crime to own or operate a casino. Today, there are thousands of casinos all over the world. Many are in tourist destinations such as Las Vegas and Macau.