What Is a Casino?

A casino is a gambling establishment where customers gamble by playing games of chance or skill. The house always has an advantage over the players, a fact that is reflected in the mathematically determined odds of each game and is often called the “house edge.” In games such as poker where patrons play against each other, the house makes its profit by taking a percentage of each pot or charging an hourly fee to players. In the United States, casinos are regulated by state and local laws.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, casino gambling spread rapidly across the United States as people left farms and towns to seek work in cities and on the coast. In Nevada, casino owners realized they could capitalize on the large numbers of “destination tourists” who came to Vegas and other gambling centers.

The casino industry is a notoriously difficult business to manage. In order to maximize profits, casinos focus their investments on the most profitable patrons. This practice is referred to as “churning,” or “chasing bets.” High rollers are given free hotel rooms, meals, show tickets and even limo service for their high wagering levels. In addition to focusing on these high-spenders, casinos rely on surveillance technology and the constant monitoring of the casino floor by casino employees for signs of cheating and other violations of their rules.

Despite these security measures, some casinos still succumb to cheaters and other criminals. In those cases, casino security staff are trained to watch for specific types of behavior that indicate a suspicious patron, such as palming or marking cards. Elaborate surveillance systems also provide a high-tech, eye-in-the-sky view of each table and can be adjusted to zoom in on suspicious behavior.