What Is a Casino?

When people think of casinos, they usually envision the bright lights and flashing slot machines of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, but there are casino locations throughout the United States, from glitzy resorts to tiny mountain towns whose 19th century Wild West buildings are filled with card tables and slots. And while some casinos offer a purely gambling environment, others feature high-end restaurants and hotels that cater to wealthy visitors who want to be pampered while they try their luck.

Casinos are places where customers gamble by playing games of chance, in some cases with an element of skill, and they make money from the players’ bets by taking a commission or rake. The house always has an advantage over the players, which can be mathematically determined and is called the house edge. Casinos take a variety of steps to keep their patrons happy and to discourage cheating and collusion. Free food and drink encourages gamblers to stay longer, but it doesn’t reduce the house edge; chips replace real cash at table games so that players can’t cheat by switching them; and a casino may place ATM machines in strategic spots.

Casinos also reward their most loyal patrons with complimentary items or comps, which are based on how much a player spends at the casino. These perks might include free hotel rooms or meals, tickets to shows and even limo service and airline tickets for heavy gamblers. As with any sizeable business, a casino brings in tax revenues that help a community’s bottom line, and studies show that counties with casinos have higher employment rates and average wages than those without them.