What Is a Casino?


A casino is a facility that houses gambling activities, either in massive resorts like Las Vegas’s or in smaller card rooms and slot machine parlors. A successful casino brings in billions of dollars each year for the companies, investors, and even Native American tribes that own and operate them. It also generates substantial revenues for the state and local governments that tax and regulate them. But critics contend that casino profits represent a shift in spending from other forms of entertainment and that the costs associated with treatment of compulsive gamblers offset any economic gains they bring to the community.

Unlike Internet gambling or lotteries, in which participants are isolated from other players and are not directly interacting with each other, casinos are designed around social interaction and excitement. Gamblers shout encouragement to each other or the dealers, and the atmosphere is filled with noise and light. Alcoholic drinks are freely available and tended by waiters moving among the tables, and nonalcoholic beverages are served as well. Casinos also feature stage shows and dramatic scenery to create an environment that is meant to stimulate gambling.

Because of the large amounts of money involved, both patrons and staff may be tempted to cheat or steal. Because of this, casinos spend a great deal of time and money on security. Many of the more sophisticated facilities use technology to monitor activity and supervise games. For example, betting chips with built-in microcircuitry are used to track exact amounts wagered minute by minute, and roulette wheels are electronically monitored regularly to discover any statistical deviation from their expected results. Video cameras in the ceiling watch every table, window, and doorway, and can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons.

Most casinos offer “comp” programs that reward frequent patrons with free room, meals, and show tickets. These programs are an important marketing tool, as they develop a database of customer information that can be used for targeted advertising. The programs also enable the casinos to keep tabs on gambling habits and trends, as well as the demographics of their customers.

In the United States, Nevada is home to the largest concentration of casinos. They draw visitors from across the country and the world, generating billions in revenue each year for the businesses, investors, and Native American tribes that own them. A few states have legalized casino gambling, and many cities and towns have established gaming venues as part of their business districts. In addition, a number of Indian reservations have opened casinos that are exempt from state antigambling laws. Some of these are regulated by the federal government, while others are licensed by state gaming boards.