The word casino conjures images of Las Vegas, a glitzy place where the gambling and entertainment industries collide. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers provide plenty of eye candy, casinos would not exist without games of chance that generate the billions in profits raked in every year. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps are just some of the games that give casinos their financial foundation.
Casinos earn their money by combining chance and skill, with the house always having a slight statistical advantage. This edge, called the house advantage or vig, is typically lower than two percent and can be adjusted to suit each game. It gives the casinos enough money to finance elaborate hotels, fountains, pyramids and towers and replicas of famous landmarks. It also enables them to pay generous winnings to gamblers and take a small percentage of the losers’ bets as a “vigorish” or a “rake.”
While gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, the modern casino as a central hub where people can find all types of gambling under one roof did not develop until the 16th century, during a time of intense gambling mania in Europe. Rich Italian aristocrats often held private parties, known as ridotti, in their homes during this time, and while these were technically illegal, they rarely ran into problems with the authorities because of their social status.
Modern casinos are designed to encourage gamblers to spend more by offering them a variety of perks and bonuses. Casinos offer free rooms, buffets and show tickets in an effort to attract as many customers as possible. They also use bright colors, especially the shade red, to stimulate gamblers’ adrenaline levels and distract them from thinking about the odds of winning or losing. They may also avoid clocks on the walls to keep gamblers from knowing how much time they’re wasting.
The security of a casino begins on the gaming floor, where employees keep their eyes peeled for cheating. Dealers watch carefully for signs of palming or marking cards, and table managers watch for betting patterns that might indicate a pattern of cheating. In addition, a higher-up person keeps tabs on each dealer and notes how well they are performing. This ensures that the casino is getting the best bang for its buck. It’s a system that has kept mob involvement out of the casinos, thanks to federal crackdowns and the threat of losing their gaming licenses.