A casino is a place where people gamble by playing games of chance or skill. The word is believed to have been derived from the Italian kasino, meaning “public house.” In modern times, casinos are massive resorts with stage shows and dramatic scenery, but they could just as easily be a small card room or a bar with some video poker machines. A casino is also a business, and it must make money to stay in business. It does this by taking bets from gamblers and then giving out complimentary items to some of them, known as comps.
A successful casino makes billions of dollars each year for the companies, investors, and Native American tribes that run it. The profits are also passed on to state and local governments, which collect taxes and fees from the gambling operations. The casinos themselves are often huge buildings with elaborate themes, restaurants, and shops. Some feature water shows, shopping centers, and even replicas of famous monuments. In the United States, casinos are most often found in Nevada and Atlantic City, but they have also sprouted up on cruise ships and at racetracks converted to racinos (compound racetrack-gambling facilities).
In 2005, the average casino gambler was a forty-six-year-old woman from a household with above-average income. The majority of casino gamblers were men and most favored slot machines. Other popular games included roulette, blackjack, and craps. The casinos take a percentage of the winnings from these machines, a fee called a vig or rake.
Gamblers are typically surrounded by other gamblers, and the environment is designed to be noisy, lively, and exciting. Those who prefer a more sedate atmosphere can play poker, roulette, or baccarat, which are played in private rooms away from the main gambling floor. People who are especially skilled at these games can be invited to join a high-stakes game with other players, but this is usually only offered to the wealthiest patrons.
Every game in a casino has a built-in advantage for the house, and this edge can be as low as two percent or as much as ten or twelve percent. This is enough to earn the casinos enormous profits, which they can then use to pay out winning bets and give free comps to some of their patrons.
Because of this virtual assurance of gross profit, most casinos offer lavish inducements to their biggest bettors in the form of free spectacular entertainment and luxurious living quarters. Lesser bettors are sometimes given free hotel rooms, discounted food and show tickets, or limo service and airline tickets. These comps are often based on how long and how much money the player has spent in the casino. To qualify for these, the gambler must swipe a card before each game session and ask the casino’s information desk how to get his or her play rated. This is done to track the player’s spending habits and help develop a database that can be used for marketing.