The word casino conjures up images of elaborate Las Vegas gambling resorts, but casinos exist in a wide range of sizes and shapes. From small card rooms to massive multi-floor complexes, they may be found in city centers, suburban shopping malls, racetracks, and on barges on rivers and lakes. They generate billions of dollars in annual revenue for the companies, investors, and Native American tribes that own them, as well as state and local governments that regulate them and collect taxes and fees from gamblers.
In all their variations, casinos feature a common theme: chance. While there is some element of skill involved in most games, the house always has a built-in advantage that ensures it will win overall. This edge can be very small, less than two percent, but over time it adds up and allows casinos to build impressive hotels, restaurants, non-gambling game rooms, pools, and even replicas of famous landmarks and structures.
From the very beginning, casinos have been big business. In the United States, Nevada was the first place where legalized gambling took hold, and the influx of wealthy travelers created a huge demand for hotel rooms and other services. As casinos became more popular, they started to spread throughout the country and eventually beyond it, drawing visitors from around the world.
Something about the large amounts of money involved in a casino entices both patrons and employees to cheat, steal or scam their way into winning a jackpot. As a result, casinos spend a great deal of money and energy on security measures to prevent these problems. Casinos have extensive surveillance cameras that cover all areas of the property, and electronic systems monitor the betting chips (in a system called chip tracking) to detect any deviation from expected results. In addition, table managers and pit bosses have a close eye on each game, spotting any attempts to mark or switch cards, dice or chips.
Casinos also spend a lot of money on advertising, both to draw people in and to promote their loyalty programs. Those who play often are given free or reduced-fare entertainment, food and drinks, hotel rooms, and other perks. They are typically designed to be visually stimulating, with bright and colorful floor and wall coverings that are meant to create a cheery and exciting atmosphere. Many are decorated in red, which is thought to help gamblers lose track of time and keep them gambling longer.