What Is a Casino?

A casino is a building or room where games of chance are played. It also includes a variety of other entertainment activities. In addition to traditional table games like poker, blackjack, roulette and craps, casinos offer slot machines, bingo, horse racing and various other forms of gambling. A casino must be licensed to operate and must follow state laws regarding gaming.

A casino’s profits are based on the house edge and variance, which are mathematically determined by the rules of each game. The house edge gives the casino a long-term disadvantage over the player, while the variance allows the house to make short-term gains. Players able to eliminate the house edge or reduce its variance are called advantage players.

In general, casino staff keep an eye on patrons to spot blatant cheating or stealing. Dealers can watch for palming, marking or switching cards and dice. Pit bosses and tables managers watch over card and table games with a broader view, looking for betting patterns that might indicate collusion between players or suspicious activity by other patrons. High-tech surveillance systems provide a bird’s-eye-view of the entire casino floor, with cameras mounted in the ceiling and in every window and doorway. They can be directed to focus on suspicious patrons by security personnel in a separate room filled with banks of computer monitors.

In the past, casino profits were often supplemented by mobsters’ money, which was used to cover criminal operations such as extortion and loan sharking. The mob’s seamy image tainted the image of many Las Vegas casinos, but owners sought ways to draw legitimate businessmen who were reluctant to get involved in gambling’s scandalous image. They offered big bettors extravagant inducements in the form of free spectacular entertainment, transportation and luxurious living quarters.