What Is a Casino?


A casino, in its most basic form, is a gambling establishment where patrons wager against the house. Whether located in massive resorts such as those in Las Vegas or in small card rooms, casinos draw billions of dollars each year from gamblers and are major sources of income for the companies, investors, and Native American tribes that own them.

Gambling, in its various forms, has long been a part of human culture. Casinos, as institutions, however, are a recent development. Before the mid-20th century, most states considered gambling illegal. In the United States, Nevada was the first state to legalize it, but even then, its growth was stifled for decades. Then, in the early 1990s, Iowa legalized riverboat gambling and the industry exploded. Today, there are more than 1,000 casinos in the United States and hundreds more in other countries around the world.

While flashing lights, lighted fountains, musical shows and shopping centers all help attract customers to casinos, they would not exist without the games of chance on which their profits are based. Each game has a built-in advantage for the casino, which, while small, adds up over time. To offset this edge, casinos provide perks called comps to encourage people to play and reward those who do. These can include free hotel rooms, meals and tickets to shows. Some casinos also offer a player’s club, similar to airline frequent-flyer programs, that tracks game play and gives players points they can redeem for free goods and services.