Casinos offer a wide range of gambling and entertainment opportunities. They also provide billions of dollars in profits for their owners. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers attract many of the casino’s patrons, it is the games of chance that drive their revenues. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat are among the most popular of these games.
The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it can be traced to nearly every culture in history. From primitive protodice to carved knuckle bones, gambling has provided entertainment, excitement and sometimes serious financial problems for millions of people. Casinos evolved as a way for people to find all the different forms of gambling under one roof. They became increasingly elaborate, with the first large-scale casinos opening in the Nevada desert in the 1950s.
Like other businesses, casinos are run to make a profit. Each game offers a built-in advantage to the house, which means that on average, the casino will win more money than its patrons do. This advantage can be as low as two percent, but with the millions of bets placed each year by casino patrons, this tiny edge earns a significant gross profit for casinos.
The most common way for casinos to increase their profit margin is by offering big bettors lavish inducements. These can include free spectacular entertainment, free luxurious transportation and elegant living quarters. Even smaller bettors can get reduced-fare transportation, hotel rooms and free drinks and cigarettes while gambling. Casinos also make a good deal of money from the vig, which is the percentage of the total amount of bets made by casino patrons that is taken by the house.
In the early days of the casino industry, gangsters controlled many of them. They had the cash from their drug dealing, extortion and other illegal activities to finance operations and to take partial or complete ownership of casinos. Today, real estate investors and hotel chains have much deeper pockets, and they are willing to spend millions of dollars buying out mob money in order to control casinos without the taint of crime.
Another way casinos make money is by relying on technology to help prevent cheating, bribery and other unethical practices. Elaborate surveillance systems provide a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” that allows security workers to watch all the tables, windows and doorways at once. The cameras can be adjusted to focus on specific suspicious patrons by casino security personnel in a separate room filled with banks of monitors.
Computers are also used to monitor the actual games themselves. For instance, chip tracking systems enable casinos to monitor the exact amounts wagered minute-by-minute and warn them of any statistical deviation from expected results. And in some games, such as roulette, a computerized system is used to keep track of the spins and determine whether there has been a foul or not. This information is quickly transmitted to casino supervisors, who decide whether to warn or discipline the player in question.