The modern casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults, and while musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers, restaurants, luxurious hotels and other attractions help attract visitors, it would be impossible to sustain a gambling business without the billions of dollars in profits generated by games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, poker and other table games provide the foundation for casinos, while the more sophisticated table games like craps, roulette and baccarat offer a higher level of skill.
Casinos make money because each game has a built in mathematical advantage for the house, resulting in an expected value that is uniformly negative (from the player’s point of view). This edge is called the “house edge” or the “vigorish,” and it is the primary source of casino profits. In addition to the vigorish, casinos also take a percentage of each bet placed by patrons at table games or video poker, which is called the rake.
While the house edge for most casino games is fairly small, the sheer volume of wagers place by millions of players can generate a substantial amount of money. This money, in addition to other sources of revenue like food and beverage sales, is used to pay for the lavish architecture, hotels and entertainment features that distinguish many of the world’s top casinos.
Gambling is a popular pastime throughout the world, with the earliest known casinos dating to ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Today, casino architecture is influenced by the baroque designs of Versailles and other royal palaces, with elaborately decorated rooms featuring rich reds and golds. The elegance of a casino is especially well represented in the elegant spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany, where Marlene Dietrich once declared it the most beautiful casino in the world.
Besides offering the standard casino fare of food, drinks and table games, most major casinos feature a wide range of upscale boutiques, night clubs and entertainment venues. Casinos are also equipped with high-tech surveillance systems that allow security personnel to monitor every table, slot machine and other area in the facility with cameras in the ceiling and in windows and doors. Cameras can be adjusted to focus on suspicious individuals by security staff in a room filled with banks of computer screens.
A casino’s security measures are supplemented by rules of conduct and behavior that are designed to discourage cheating or stealing. However, given the large amounts of money that are handled in casinos, both patrons and employees may be tempted to steal or cheat, either in collusion or individually. As a result, most casinos employ strict security measures to prevent these activities.
In some cases, a casino will reward a loyal customer with free merchandise, show tickets and hotel stays, or even airline and limo service. These rewards are referred to as comps and can be earned by playing certain games at the casino or spending a specified amount of time there. To get a list of available comps, ask a casino employee or visit the information desk.