What Is a Casino?

A casino is a gambling establishment that offers customers the opportunity to gamble by playing games of chance or skill. A large variety of games may be found at a casino, including poker, blackjack, slots and video poker. Many casinos also offer live entertainment and sports betting.

Something about gambling (maybe the potential for huge jackpots) seems to encourage people to try to cheat or scam their way into a win, so casinos have to devote a lot of time and money to security. Elaborate surveillance systems offer a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” that allows security workers to watch every table, window and doorway at the same time, as well as adjust cameras to focus on suspicious patrons. In addition, the routines of casino games create patterns that are easy for security personnel to detect when someone deviates from them.

Despite their differences, casino games all have one thing in common: the house always wins. The built-in advantage that a casino has over its patrons is called the house edge or expected value, and it can be very small, but over millions of bets it adds up to a substantial profit. The casino earns this advantage by charging a commission on bets, known as the vig or rake, or by taking a percentage of winnings from players on some games, such as blackjack and video poker.

In the early 1900s, casino owners realized that they could capitalize on Nevada’s reputation for legal gambling and draw visitors from across the United States. The casinos became a major source of income for the state and eventually attracted mobster money, which helped give them a less-than-savory image.