A casino is a building where people can play games of chance. It has extras such as restaurants, free drinks and stage shows, but it would not exist without the billions of dollars in profits raked in by gambling machines such as slots, roulette, blackjack, poker and craps. There are other games of chance such as baccarat and keno, but they are not the main source of revenues for casinos.
Many casino buildings are combined with hotels, resorts, shopping centers and other tourist attractions. Casinos often have security departments that are staffed by trained personnel and use closed circuit television to monitor patron activities. They also employ specialized personnel to inspect and maintain the machines. Some casinos even have full-time psychologists to help gamblers deal with their losses.
Casinos are often located in areas with high population density, such as Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City. They can also be found in smaller communities that wish to capitalize on the revenue generated by casinos, and on Indian reservations. In the United States, there are more than 3,000 casinos.
The most common casino game is a slot machine, but there are also video poker, baccarat and chemin de fer (known in the US as blackjack). Some casinos may have a single game, such as keno or bingo, while others have a wide variety. The number of machines and tables varies by casino, and is determined in part by the state in which it is located.
In the past, many casinos were run by organized crime groups or gangsters. In the 1980s, real estate investors and hotel chains realized the potential profits of casinos, and bought out the mobs. Federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a gaming license at any hint of mob involvement have forced most casinos to go legitimate.
Some casino games have a degree of skill, but the overall expectation is that the house has a mathematical advantage over the players. This advantage can be quantified by the notion of expected value or, more precisely, by the house edge. Casinos take steps to offset this disadvantage by offering comps (complimentary items) to gamblers, and by using chips instead of cash to make money so that players do not get too concerned about their losses.
In addition to the aforementioned measures, some casinos employ other security measures such as the use of surveillance cameras, requiring gamblers to keep their hands visible at all times and other rules that limit gambling activity. Due to the large amounts of money handled within a casino, both staff and patrons may be tempted to cheat or steal, either in collusion with one another or independently. Therefore, casinos have to enforce strict rules and provide ample supervision. Casinos are sometimes referred to as gaming houses or gambling halls, though the term gambling house is more commonly used in the UK. In the US, the terms cockroach casino and tiger casino are also used.