A casino is an establishment for certain types of gambling. Casinos are often combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and other tourist attractions. They are also found in many cities and towns around the world. The word is derived from the Latin “casus lupus,” meaning “wolf’s den.”
In addition to the gambling tables and machines, casinos offer top-notch restaurants, bars and entertainment. Many casinos also have spas and golf courses.
Casinos are also places where people gather to meet friends and socialize. In the United States, about 51 million people – a quarter of the population over 21 – visited a casino in 2002. The number of visitors increases every year. Most of these people are tourists, but a significant percentage are local residents who visit the casinos for pleasure. Casinos generate a considerable amount of money for their hosts. They are located in cities and rural areas, and also on Indian reservations.
Because of the large amounts of money handled within a casino, both patrons and staff may be tempted to cheat or steal, either in collusion with other patrons or independently. As a result, most casinos have substantial security measures. These range from the most basic, such as security cameras, to elaborate, such as high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” systems that monitor the entire casino from a room filled with banks of security monitors.
In addition to security, casinos are concerned about attracting and keeping a steady flow of patrons. To this end, they offer various incentives to “good” players. These can include free hotel rooms, dinners, shows or tickets, transportation and even limo service. The rewards are usually based on how much a person gambles and how long he or she plays.
The casinos’ advantage over the gamblers is known as the vig or rake, and it can be quite small (less than two percent). However, it adds up over millions of bets and can provide enough profits to support the extravagant decorations that casinos are known for: fountains, giant pyramids, towers and replicas of famous landmarks.
At one time, mobsters controlled several casinos, but federal crackdowns and the possibility of losing a gaming license at the slightest hint of Mafia involvement drove them from the industry. This left the door open for real estate investors and hotel chains, who realized how profitable casinos could be. As a result, the modern casinos are very different from the seedy ones of the past. In the United States, many are in Las Vegas and Atlantic City; in other countries, they are mostly in Europe. In addition, a growing number of Native American tribes operate their own casinos.