A casino is a place where people can gamble, play games of chance and have fun. It is not just for hedonists and millionaires; even your grandmother might enjoy taking weekend bus trips to the nearest casino with her friends. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers help draw in the crowds, casinos would not exist without games of chance like slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno, and baccarat, which provide billions in profits each year to their owners. This article will take a look at how casinos make money, their history and what to expect when you visit one.
Gambling probably predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice found in some of the earliest archaeological sites [Source: Schwartz]. But the modern casino, a place where you can find a variety of gambling games under one roof, didn’t develop until the 16th century, when a craze for gambling swept Europe. Italian aristocrats used private clubs called ridotti to host parties where playing dice and card games were the primary entertainment activities. These clubs were technically illegal, but the gamblers who frequented them weren’t bothered by the authorities.
Casinos use a variety of technology to protect their assets and customers. For example, cameras in the ceiling give a high-tech eye-in-the-sky view of the entire casino and can be focused on suspicious patrons by security personnel in a separate room filled with banks of security monitors. In addition, betting chips with built-in microcircuitry communicate with electronic systems in tables to enable casinos to monitor the exact amount of money being wagered minute by minute and warn security staff if there is any anomaly; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored regularly to discover statistical deviations from expected results.
In addition to protecting their investments, casinos reward “good” players with complimentary items or comps. These can include hotel rooms, meals and tickets to shows. Comps are usually based on the amount of time and money a person spends at a casino, with higher-volume players receiving more generous perks such as free hotel rooms, limo service and airline tickets.
The dark side of casinos
Casino owners have a long history of close ties to organized crime figures, especially in Nevada where the first casinos opened. Mob money flowed into Reno and Las Vegas, but the gangsters were not content to simply provide the funds; they became involved in the operations of some casinos and even influenced game outcomes by threatening to kill or otherwise harm dealers and other casino personnel. Eventually, real estate developers and hotel chains with deep pockets bought out the mobsters and took over casinos, which now benefit from a clean image free of mob taint.
While casinos do bring in revenue, critics argue that they have a negative impact on local economies. They claim that the profit casinos generate shifts spending from other forms of local entertainment and that the cost of treating compulsive gamblers negates any economic benefits they might bring.