A casino is a gambling establishment that offers various games of chance, such as slots, roulette, blackjack, craps, and video poker. Casinos also offer other entertainment features, such as stage shows, shopping centers and lavish hotels. Although these amenities may help draw in visitors, casinos would not exist without the billions of dollars in profits they generate from gambling.
In the United States, about 51 million people—a quarter of the population over 21—visited a casino in 2002. Those visitors spent $26.5 billion on gambling, dining and hotel stays.
Most casinos are built to resemble theme parks or resorts, with a variety of glitzy attractions and amenities. They feature dazzling lights, high-tech architecture, and the latest slot machines and table games. A few of the more famous ones have even become internationally recognized brands, like the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The glitzy image of casinos helps them attract customers from around the world.
Despite their attraction, casinos are not without controversy. In addition to their role in promoting problem gambling, casinos often receive criticism for their effect on local economies. Critics argue that the money a casino brings in shifts spending from other forms of entertainment and reduces incomes for local businesses. Additionally, studies show that the cost of treating compulsive gamblers and lost productivity from those who cannot control their spending reverses any economic benefits that a casino might bring.
Throughout history, many casinos have been run by organized crime figures, including mafia dons. They provided the funding, which helped to establish the casinos’ seamy reputations, and in some cases took full or partial ownership of them.