What Is a Casino?

A casino is a facility where people can gamble games of chance or skill. It may be a huge resort facility, a racino at a racetrack or a small card room in a bar. Most casinos feature slot machines and table games like blackjack, craps, and poker. Some casinos also offer a variety of traditional Far Eastern games, such as sic bo (which spread to several European and American casinos during the 1990s), fan-tan and pai gow. Casinos rely on bright lights, music, and flashing symbols to attract customers. Windows and clocks are rare; the lack of external time cues allows patrons to spend hours gambling without realizing how much money they’ve spent.

The house edge, the mathematical expectation of losing for a player at a given game, is the central source of profit for most casinos. While many gamblers believe that they can overcome the house edge by skillful play, this is not true. All casino games are designed with a built-in advantage for the establishment.

To offset this edge, casinos attract high-income patrons with the promise of spectacular entertainment and luxurious living quarters. They entice these bettors with free or reduced-fare transportation and hotel rooms, free drinks and cigarettes while gambling, and even free spectacular shows. In addition, casinos use a wide array of technological innovations to keep tabs on their tables and patrons. For example, chips with microcircuitry allow casinos to monitor bets minute-by-minute; roulette wheels are electronically monitored to ensure that they follow a statistical pattern.