What Is a Casino?


The casino is the name given to a place where gambling games are played. It’s also a term used to describe the business that operates such a venue. A casino might offer a number of different amenities to attract customers, including restaurants, free drinks, stage shows and even deluxe hotel rooms. These perks are intended to lure players away from competing casinos and toward the house, which is expected to win in the long run. While these extras aren’t necessary for a casino to operate, they are certainly useful.

Casinos come in many shapes and sizes, from the sprawling edifices of Las Vegas to tiny illegal pai gow parlors in New York’s Chinatown. But the essential character of a casino remains unchanged: A casino is a place where people gamble, sometimes against the house, and other times against each other.

Traditionally, casinos have operated in areas with loosely defined laws on gambling. The first such establishments arose in Nevada, which changed its laws in the 1950s to allow for large commercial casinos. At that time, organized crime figures had plenty of cash, and they were willing to invest it in the seamy, illicit world of gambling. Mafia money flowed steadily into Reno and Las Vegas, and mobster owners became intimately involved with their casinos. They took sole or partial ownership of them and even tried to manipulate games and outcomes through intimidation tactics and threats to casino staff members. The mob’s involvement eventually led to crackdowns by federal authorities, which helped legitimate businesses take over the casinos.

Gambling in a casino can be broken down into three general categories: gaming machines, table games and random number games. Gaming machines are generally controlled by computer chips and don’t require the intervention of casino employees. Table games involve one or more people who compete against the house rather than each other, and they are conducted by casino employees known as croupiers or dealers. Random number games are based on a selection of numbers that are randomly generated by a computer or other equipment.

As the gambling industry has diversified, so too have casino amenities. Besides the obvious luxuries of food, drink and entertainment, some casinos are now pushing themselves as more than simply places to play – and they’re succeeding. For example, the Bellagio in Las Vegas offers a branch of New York’s swank Le Cirque restaurant as well as Hermes and Chanel boutiques. Similarly, the Casino Lisboa in Lisbon has a three-ring rotating stage for live performances and a flexible auditorium with panoramic views.