What Is a Casino?

A casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults with the vast majority of the entertainment (and profits for the owner) coming from gambling. Musical shows, lighted fountains and elaborate themes help draw the crowds, but casinos would not exist without slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and other games of chance.

Unlike other forms of gambling where patrons compete against each other, casino games usually have a built-in mathematical expectation of winning. For that reason, it’s rare for a casino to lose money on any given day. Even so, something about the nature of gambling seems to encourage cheating and stealing, so casinos spend a great deal of time and money on security.

Most modern casinos are owned by hotel and resort companies, which have the deep pockets needed to run a successful operation. But in the beginning, many casino owners were organized crime figures, who had plenty of cash from their drug dealing, extortion and other illegal rackets. Mob money brought a new level of sophistication to Reno and Las Vegas, where the casino business was booming by the 1950s. Mob money also helped legitimize the industry, as it gave casinos a reputation for safety and reliability that other types of gambling could not.

Today, casinos are found worldwide. In addition to the famous Las Vegas Strip, many American Indian reservations and other locations now host casinos that are exempt from state antigambling laws. And while New York City banned casino gambling in the past, the public voted to allow changes to the law, and several large, high-end casinos now operate within the city limits.