A casino (also known as a gambling house or a gaming hall) is an establishment for certain types of gambling. Casinos are often combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships or other tourist attractions. Some casinos are owned by governments, while others are operated by private corporations. In the United States, the largest concentration of casino resorts is in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gambling in casinos is regulated by state and federal law. Most casinos have security measures to prevent cheating or stealing by patrons. These include cameras located throughout the building and an “eye-in-the-sky” surveillance system that monitors every table, window and doorway. The video monitors are supervised by security personnel. The routines of games and the expected reactions of players also form patterns that can help detect suspicious behavior.
To encourage patrons to gamble, casinos offer drinks and snacks at low or no cost. Alcoholic drinks are served by waiters circulating throughout the casino floor and nonalcoholic beverages are available at counters. The casino atmosphere is designed to be loud and dazzling, with lighting that accentuates colors and movements. The noise level and flashing lights can cause people to lose track of time. Many casinos have no clocks displayed on the walls. Casinos also use bright and sometimes gaudy floor and wall coverings that have a stimulating and cheering effect, and they avoid using dark colors, which can be depressing.
The large amounts of money handled within a casino make it susceptible to theft and fraud by both patrons and employees. To reduce these risks, casinos have strict rules and procedures for handling cash and other valuables. Casinos are also inspected by state and local authorities for safety, health, and fairness.
Despite the seamy reputation of gambling, legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in casinos until organized crime began funding them. Mafia figures controlled the earliest casinos in Reno and Las Vegas, where they built their empires. They provided the capital, but they were also personally involved in running the operations and often threatened casino staff with violence if they didn’t like the results of a game.
In the 1990s, casinos drastically increased their use of technology to supervise casino games. In addition to computerized monitoring of security, chip tracking systems allow casinos to oversee the amount of money wagered minute-by-minute; electronic roulette wheels are monitored electronically to discover any statistical deviations from their expected outcomes; and some games, such as blackjack and poker, are completely automated and require no dealer.
While casinos attract a broad range of customers, they are most profitable to the highest-spending gamblers. In 2005 the average casino patron was a forty-six-year-old female from a household with above-average income. This demographic accounts for more than half of the casino gambling market. In contrast, the typical household income for a family of four in the United States is $44,500. Moreover, many of the people who visit the top casinos in the world are wealthy tourists from other countries who enjoy the luxury and excitement of these gaming destinations.