A casino, also known as a gaming house or a gambling establishment, is a facility for certain types of gambling. Its name is derived from the Latin casina meaning “little house,” and it may refer to either a building or an entire complex of rooms. Casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shops, cruise ships and other tourist attractions. Many casinos also offer live entertainment such as concerts and stand-up comedy shows.
In 2002, 51 million people—roughly one-quarter of all Americans over the age of 21—visited a casino. The vast majority of these were tourists, though some were locals who went to the casinos to participate in social activities such as eating or watching a show. The casino industry is one of the few that continues to grow even in a weak economy, as people search for ways to spend their money.
Most casinos are located in the United States, but they can be found throughout the world. Some are large, resort-style facilities with multiple restaurants, bars and nightclubs; others are small, intimate affairs. In most cases, the size of a casino depends on its proximity to population centers. In the United States, the largest casino is in Las Vegas.
During the 1950s, when Nevada legalized casino gambling, owners looked for funding to expand and improve their properties. They turned to organized crime figures, who had plenty of cash from their drug dealing and extortion activities and were not concerned about the seamy image of gambling. Mafia involvement in Reno and Las Vegas casinos continued to grow, with criminals taking sole or partial ownership of many properties and exerting significant control over operations.
In the 1990s, many casinos began to incorporate technology to monitor and control their operations. For example, chip tracking allows a casino to see exactly what is wagered on each game moment by moment, and to quickly discover any statistical deviations from expected results. In addition, video cameras are routinely used for security and surveillance purposes.
Some casinos cater to high-rollers with special VIP rooms and services. These can include private jets, concierge service, and free hotel rooms or food and beverage credits. Other casinos rely on comps, or complimentary goods and services, to attract regular patrons. These can include free hotel stays, meals, tickets to shows, and limo or airline tickets.
While a casino’s main purpose is to attract gamblers and generate revenue, it also seeks to provide a fun and entertaining experience for its guests. Consequently, the design and decor of a casino is intended to exude luxury and opulence. Lush carpeting and carefully designed lighting are common features. In addition, a casino is typically stocked with expensive art pieces and upscale furnishings. Lastly, the sound system is often top-of-the-line, with acoustics that can rival any concert hall. These amenities are what distinguish a top casino from the average strip joint.