A casino is a building that allows people to gamble and play games of chance. It is often combined with hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and other tourist attractions. Its popularity with tourists has made it one of the most profitable businesses in the world. While musical shows, lighted fountains, glitzy hotels and elaborate themes attract visitors, casinos would not exist without the billions in profits raked in each year by slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and other games of chance.
While some people believe that a casino is not legitimate because it is a place where money is exchanged, the business is legal in most states. In the United States, 51 million people — roughly one-quarter of the population over the age of 21 — visited a casino in 2002. Many of them spent money that they did not have, and some even fell victim to gambling addictions. However, there are ways to avoid the dark side of a casino.
Gambling is a centuries-old practice that has influenced all cultures, from Ancient Mesopotamia and Greece to Napoleon’s France and Elizabethan England. Casinos, the modern commercial establishments where people can play a variety of gambling games, began to develop in Europe during the second half of the 19th century. They grew in popularity, and by the early 1970s Las Vegas was well on its way to becoming a major center for gambling.
To ensure their profitability, casinos employ a variety of tactics to persuade players to spend money on games of chance. They offer free spectacular entertainment to the highest bettors, reduced-fare transportation and hotel rooms, and nonalcoholic drinks and snacks to the lesser bettors. In addition, the casinos use the latest technology to oversee the games themselves. For example, betting chips with built-in microcircuitry allow them to monitor the exact amounts wagered minute by minute; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviation from their expected results.
The dark side of a casino includes the possibility that some patrons may try to cheat or steal, either in collusion with other patrons or on their own. Because of this, casinos invest a great deal of time and money in security measures. They have numerous cameras and other devices to monitor gambling areas, and they hire security guards who are trained to spot suspicious behavior. Casinos also prohibit the possession of weapons in their premises, and they employ special police forces to patrol their buildings.
While casinos are often criticized for the impact they have on local economies, some economists argue that the benefits outweigh the costs. The jobs and tax revenue generated by casinos outweigh the negative impact of compulsive gambling, which causes many families to suffer. In addition, casinos draw in local people instead of out-of-town tourists, so they may actually bring more money into the community than they take out. The high cost of treating problem gambling, however, can offset these economic gains. In addition, the jobs of casino employees may outnumber those of other types of businesses in the community.