The Casino of the Twenty-First Century

In 2002 the American Gaming Association estimated that about 51 million people—a quarter of the adults over 21 in the United States—visited casinos domestically or abroad. In addition to the casinos you see in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, there are pai gow parlors on New York’s Chinatown streets, riverboats in Puerto Rico, and other gambling establishments all over the world. These are places where people play games of chance like baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, and slot machines. While music shows, lighted fountains, and lavish hotels attract gamblers, the profits that casinos rake in each year are derived mostly from games of chance.

Casinos have evolved since their inception, and while floor shows and free drinks are still standard, the casino of the twenty-first century is also a high-tech operation. Elaborate surveillance systems allow security personnel to watch every table, window, and doorway, while computerized systems track the amount of money placed on each machine minute-by-minute and alert staff to statistical deviations from expected results.

As casinos become more sophisticated, they are also choosier about who they let in the doors. High rollers, who place bets in the tens of thousands of dollars, gamble in special rooms away from the main casino and are given comps worth a great deal of money, including luxury suites and personal attention. These efforts to keep riffraff out help protect the integrity of the games and ensure that winnings are distributed fairly among those who play them.