A casino is an establishment that allows patrons to gamble on games of chance. Modern casinos are elaborate, with a wide variety of games, restaurants, free drinks and stage shows to draw in players and maximize profits. However, there have been less lavish gambling houses that would qualify as casinos under the law. Federally, gambling is legal only in states that permit it. Individual states regulate their own gambling laws, so casinos may operate in Nevada but not Utah.
Casinos make money by charging a vig or rake on each bet placed by customers. This small percentage of overall bets is enough to provide the casino with a mathematical advantage over the players. This advantage can be as low as two percent, but over time it is enough to generate billions of dollars in gross profit for the owners.
Something about gambling (maybe it’s the large amount of cash involved) seems to encourage people to cheat or steal, either in collusion with other patrons or independently. That’s why casinos spend a great deal of money and effort on security measures. Video cameras are everywhere, and special equipment allows security people to view tables and even individual cards in play. In addition, electronic systems monitor betting chips with built-in microcircuitry to ensure that the amount of money wagered is accurate, and roulette wheels are electronically monitored for statistical deviations.
Casinos have a history that goes back thousands of years. Gambling was common in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. In America, organized crime figures funded some of the first Nevada casinos in the 1950s, but legitimate businessmen were hesitant to get involved with gambling because it carried a taint of “vice” and was illegal in many other states. The Mafia, however, had plenty of money from drug dealing and extortion rackets and was willing to take on the risk of running casinos in the nation’s most popular vacation spot.