A casino is a place where people can gamble on games of chance and live entertainment. The best casinos also have top-notch hotels, restaurants, bars, spas, and theaters. The gambling industry in general draws in billions of dollars each year for the casinos, their owners and investors, and state and local governments.
In 2002 alone, 51 million Americans—or roughly a quarter of all adults age 21 and older—visited a casino. That figure doesn’t include visits to Native American casinos, horse racetracks that operate racinos, or other types of gaming establishments.
Modern casinos often resemble indoor amusement parks for grown-ups, complete with stage shows, restaurants, shopping centers, and luxurious hotels. But the majority of a casino’s profits (and the winnings of its patrons) come from gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat and other games of chance generate the billions in revenue that fuel the casino economy.
The house edge, or mathematical advantage that a casino has over players, is built into the odds of each game. Casinos track these odds, along with variations in payouts, to ensure that they make a profit over time. This work is done by a profession called gaming mathematicians and analysts.
To maximize their profits, casinos focus on customer service and offer perks such as free hotel rooms and meals for big spenders. This is known as comping. During the 1970s, Las Vegas casinos were famous for offering deep discounts on travel packages and cheap buffets in order to attract and keep customers.