What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where gambling takes place. It has games of chance, such as roulette, blackjack, poker and slot machines, and also has restaurants, bars, non-gambling game rooms, hotels, swimming pools and other attractions to attract visitors.

Unlike lotteries or Internet gambling, casinos are physically present in one location and offer social interaction between players. Some are large and elaborate, with dramatic scenery and a wide variety of games. Others are more modest, but all casinos strive to create a special atmosphere to entice gamblers.

The first American casinos opened in Nevada, a state with very loose gambling laws. Other states soon realized the potential profits and began opening their own. In the 1980s, casinos started appearing on Indian reservations, which were exempt from state antigambling laws.

Casinos are often associated with gangsters and organized crime, but in the 1990s investment bankers took control of many casinos. They use the money from gamblers to make loans and investments, and they have even developed their own versions of the roulette wheel and craps table. Mobster money still flows into Reno and Las Vegas, but federal crackdowns and the fear of losing a gambling license at the hint of mob involvement keeps these criminals away from their gambling cash cows.

Something about the presence of large amounts of money seems to encourage people to cheat, steal or scam their way into a jackpot, so casinos spend a great deal of time and money on security. Security workers on the casino floor watch patrons carefully, observing for signs of palming cards, marking or switching dice, and looking for betting patterns that could indicate cheating. Elaborate surveillance systems give a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” view of the entire casino at once, and are easily adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons by security workers in a separate room filled with banks of security monitors.