A casino is a building that allows people to gamble by playing games of chance and in some cases skill. It has a very long history and is found in almost every culture around the world. While most people associate casinos with Las Vegas-style megaresorts, there are many smaller establishments around the country and even some that are purely slot machines.
While it is impossible to determine the exact origin of gambling, the first recorded instances of it date back thousands of years. In modern times, it is regulated by governments in most countries and is one of the largest sources of revenue for the entertainment industry.
Casinos are not just big buildings with neon lights and games of chance, they also have to offer a variety of services in order to attract customers. In addition to the traditional casino games, they often feature restaurants and hotels, and in some cases shopping and night clubs. They are also required to keep detailed records of all transactions. The most profitable casinos are those that can provide high levels of service to the most wealthy patrons. These high rollers may receive comps that include free hotel rooms, meals and tickets to shows or even limo service and airline tickets.
Because of the large amounts of money handled within the confines of a casino, both employees and patrons are prone to cheating or stealing. This is why security is a major concern for most operators. A typical casino is heavily patrolled by security guards, and elaborate surveillance systems are in place. Cameras are placed throughout the building, and some casinos have catwalks in the ceiling that allow surveillance personnel to look directly down, through one way glass, on the activities of the table games and slot machines.
Most casino games have a built in mathematical advantage for the house, which is known as the house edge. This can be small, such as two percent, but it adds up over the millions of bets that are placed each year. This advantage is what makes casinos able to afford such extravagant decoration and entertainment amenities as fountains, towers and replicas of famous landmarks.
The mob once ran most of the casinos in the United States, but as real estate investors and hotel chains realized the potential profits, they began to buy out the gangsters. Today, casino ownership is very rarely associated with organized crime and the federal government closely monitors new casinos for possible Mafia connections. Even so, the slightest indication of mob involvement can result in a casino losing its license to operate. This has been a major impetus for technological advances in casino surveillance. For example, betting chips with microcircuitry are now used to enable the casino to monitor wagers minute-by-minute and detect any deviation from expected results. Roulette wheels and dice are electronically monitored to detect any anomalies as well. Video cameras are also routinely used for general surveillance. This is in addition to the use of fingerprint scanning, facial recognition technology and electronic eyeglasses that monitor patrons for suspicious behaviors or movements.