What Is a Casino?

From the glitzy strip clubs of Las Vegas to the illegal pai gow parlors of New York City’s Chinatown, more than 51 million Americans–more than a quarter of all adults over 21–visit casinos every year. A casino is a place where people gamble and play games of chance for real money. The most popular casino games are roulette, blackjack, and poker. Besides the games, many casinos offer other entertainment like floor shows, top-notch restaurants, and luxurious hotels.

Casinos make their money by taking a percentage of each bet placed on their tables or machines, a practice known as vigorish or rake. The amount of the vig varies by game and casino, but it is usually lower than two percent. This edge earns casinos millions of dollars a year, and enables them to construct huge facilities with fountains, pyramids, towers, and replicas of famous landmarks.

Some casinos also focus on specific types of gambling, such as sic bo (which first appeared in Nevada casinos during the 1990s) and fan-tan in Asia. Other games that are found only in certain regions include two-up in Australia, banca francesa in Portugal, boule in France, and kalooki in Britain.

Most casinos depend heavily on high-rollers to generate a significant portion of their profits, so they offer them extravagant inducements in the form of free rooms and meals and other luxury amenities. However, critics argue that the money these patrons spend on gaming often represents a shift from other local entertainment and that the costs of treating problem gamblers and lost productivity from lost wages may cancel out any economic benefits casinos bring to their communities.