The glitz and glamour of casinos is what makes them so popular. But gambling only makes up a fraction of the allure. Many casinos also house restaurants, bars, shops, spas and even museums or theaters, making them destinations in their own right. Some of these casinos are quaint and charming, while others are glass-and-steel temples of overindulgence.
Casinos attract patrons with the promise of fun and excitement, primarily through games of chance and some skill. These games include slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat and poker. The casinos make billions in profits each year from these activities, which are subsidized by the state, local and tribal governments. Casinos are like indoor amusement parks for adults and they draw huge crowds, especially if they have musical shows or other spectacular entertainment.
In addition to the blaring music, dazzling lights and flashing neon signs, casinos often use a variety of other tricks to lure people inside. They offer free drinks and food, discounted hotel rooms, and complimentary gifts, or comps. They also try to create a particular mood, such as cool and dark or bright and cheerful, by using colors and lighting. The etymology of the word casino suggests that it was originally a type of Italian social club. Later, it came to refer to any building where gaming was allowed.
There are more than 3,000 legal casinos in the world, including large resorts such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City and smaller establishments such as the Sun City Resort in Rustenburg, South Africa. In the United States, they are located in cities such as New Jersey and Nevada and on Indian reservations that are exempt from state antigambling laws. They are also found on riverboats and in some states, such as Florida, where they are regulated by the state government.
Despite the glamorous images that casinos project, they are not without security risks. To guard against cheating and other crimes, they employ a number of sophisticated technologies, including catwalks that extend above the floor and allow surveillance personnel to look down on the tables and slot machines through one-way mirrors. Likewise, there are cameras that monitor every square foot of the casino floor and can be adjusted to focus on suspicious activity.
Casinos are designed to make money, and they achieve this by attracting high-stakes gamblers who spend more than the average patron. To reward these high rollers, they are offered special gambling rooms where they can wager tens of thousands of dollars or more and receive luxury inducements such as free tickets to spectacular shows and reduced-fare transportation and accommodations. Casinos also have a virtual guarantee of net profit by accepting all bets within an established limit and by having mathematically determined odds for each game. This advantage, known as the house edge, is the source of the billions in annual profits for casinos. Besides the house edge, casinos also collect a commission on bets made by other players at a table or in poker games, which is known as the rake.