What is a Casino?


A casino, as defined in Webster’s New World College Dictionary, “is a place where a variety of gambling games are played and where the players gamble for money.” In its most basic form, a casino is nothing more than a room that allows you to try your hand at some games of chance. However, the modern casino adds a number of other luxuries to its basic concept. It often offers restaurants, free drinks and stage shows as part of the casino experience.

The word ‘casino’ is a portmanteau of the Italian words for ‘house’ and ‘play.’ While gambling probably predates recorded history – primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice have been found in archaeological sites – the concept of a casino as a place to find many different ways to gamble under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century. During this time, a gambling craze swept Europe and wealthy Italian aristocrats held parties in private rooms called ridotti to get their gambling fix.

Gambling games may vary from country to country, but casinos generally feature table and slot machines. Some of the more popular games include blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps. Craps, for instance, is a favorite with high rollers who like to bet large amounts. To attract them, casinos usually offer a low house edge – often less than 1 percent.

Slots are the backbone of casino revenue, bringing in a greater proportion of the total casino profits than any other game. They are easy to understand and don’t require any player skill, other than the ability to press a button or pull a lever. Variable bands of colored shapes appear on a reel (either a physical wheel or a video representation of one) and, when the right pattern appears, the player wins a predetermined amount.

Casinos also feature a wide array of table games, from the familiar poker and blackjack to the less familiar baccarat and two-up, which are found in Asian casinos. Craps is another big-money casino attraction, with high-rollers converging on the tables in East Asia to make huge wagers.

The modern casino has become a shrine to surface decadence, with opulent décor and overflowing bars. It’s the stomping ground of tuxedo-clad millionaires who order vodka spritzers in a flute and tip their waitresses outrageously large tips. Casinos are also an important source of income for local economies, but critics argue that compulsive gambling erodes community life by diverting local spending away from other entertainment sources.

Some casinos go the extra mile in the name of security, requiring players to keep their hands visible and limiting the size of bets to certain minimums. Others employ cameras to track the activities of patrons, allowing them to spot cheating or other violations of gaming rules. In addition to the cameras, some casinos have catwalks in the ceiling that allow security personnel to look down on table and slot games through one-way glass. This method of surveillance is more effective than cameras because the operative can observe behavior and betting patterns that are difficult to catch on a regular camera.