A casino is a place where patrons can gamble on games of chance. It also may have restaurants and stage shows to attract tourists. A modern casino adds extras such as free drinks, a wide selection of video poker machines and even a high-tech eye-in-the-sky surveillance system to help it stand out from more low-key establishments that have historically served the same purpose.
Gambling is a huge industry in the United States and casinos are an integral part of American life. While musical shows, lighted fountains and elaborate hotels draw in the crowds, it is the games that are responsible for the billions in profits raked in by casinos every year.
In the early days of gambling, casinos were often seedy backrooms controlled by mobster types. As the casinos gained popularity, mobster money flowed into Reno and Las Vegas, and eventually these organized crime families took over the operations entirely. Mob influence on casinos waned after the 1960s, and many of them were bought by legitimate businessmen.
The game of gambling has a built in advantage for the house, known as the house edge. This advantage can be very small, but over millions of bets it adds up. The casino makes its money by collecting a percentage of each bet made by players, known as the vig or rake. Casinos also offer complimentary items or “comps” to players, based on the amount of time they spend at the tables or slot machines.