A casino is an establishment for certain types of gambling. The term is most often used to describe places that offer table games like blackjack, craps, and roulette, as well as video poker and keno. Casinos may also have restaurants and bars, and some even host live entertainment. Some casinos are stand-alone buildings, while others are integrated into hotels or resorts.
The first casinos were gangster-run operations, but they soon realized that attracting big gamblers generated more money than mob protection fees and taxes. Real estate investors and hotel chains with deep pockets bought out the mobsters and began running their own casinos. Government crackdowns and the threat of losing a license at the slightest hint of mafia involvement continue to keep mob influence out of the gambling business.
In 2002, about 51 million people — roughly a quarter of those over 21 in the United States — visited a casino. That number is expected to rise substantially in the near future as more countries legalize gambling and more Americans travel abroad. Some casinos focus on pampering their customers with free spectacular entertainment, elegant living quarters and transportation perks like limo service and airline tickets for big bettors. Others, such as Las Vegas’ famous Bellagio, combine luxury accommodations with top-notch dining and shopping to create an experience that is more akin to an exclusive resort than a traditional gambling hall. Regardless of their style, most casinos have one thing in common: They are designed to win.