Casino is a gambling establishment that offers a variety of games of chance and skill, including slot machines, roulette, blackjack, craps, baccarat and poker. Many casinos feature restaurants and bars as well as a selection of luxury hotel rooms and suites. Some are even modeled after famous landmarks and structures, like the Eiffel Tower and the Bellagio water show. Casinos also feature elaborate surveillance systems that provide a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” view of the entire casino floor. These systems can be adjusted by security personnel in a separate room filled with banks of security monitors. The system can also record patrons and be reviewed for evidence of cheating, tampering or other criminal activity.
Casinos make money by taking advantage of the fact that most games have a built-in statistical advantage for the house. These advantages can be very small, often lower than two percent. This gives the casino an edge over players that is not easily overcome by skill or knowledge. The advantage can be expressed mathematically as the house edge, or in games where players play against each other, as a percentage of total bets taken by the house called the rake. Casinos often give away complimentary items, or comps, to patrons in order to offset this advantage.
In addition to the obvious profits from gambling, casinos are often profitable by renting out space to outside events such as concerts and trade shows. This brings in additional customers and revenue. Some casinos are also located on prime real estate, such as in the case of the Las Vegas Strip, where the large number of casino hotels generates substantial tax revenues for the city.
During the 1990s, many casinos dramatically increased their use of technology to supervise their games. In one example, a machine known as a “chip tracker” enables casinos to see exactly how much money is being wagered minute by minute, and to warn staff immediately of any suspicious activity. Similarly, roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviations from their expected results.
While some casinos focus on table games, such as baccarat, most rely heavily on slot machines for their income. In fact, casinos earn a greater proportion of their income from slot machines than any other game. This is partly because these machines are relatively easy to understand: the player inserts money, pulls a handle or pushes a button, and watches as varying bands of colored shapes roll on reels (actual physical reels or video representations of them). The machine then pays out predetermined amounts depending on what combinations appear.
Although some casino owners have close ties to organized crime, many operate without mob involvement. This is because large investors, such as real estate developers and hotel chains, have the deep pockets needed to buy out mafia interests and to operate the casinos independently. Federal crackdowns on mob involvement in casino gambling also help to prevent the mobsters from controlling these important economic engines.