A casino is a place where people can gamble on games of chance and in some cases skill. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps account for most of the billions in profits casinos rake in each year.
A modern casino looks like an indoor amusement park for adults, with musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and lavish hotels. But most of the profits (and fun) come from gambling, and casinos would not exist without games of chance.
Gambling is believed to predate recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice among the earliest archaeological finds. The first casino as an establishment where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof probably developed in the 16th century during a gambling craze that swept Europe. Italian aristocrats gathered in private gambling houses known as ridotti to place bets and play games of chance with each other and with the local nobility.
The house edge is the average mathematical advantage that the casino expects to make from each game, including those where there is no element of skill. It is uniformly negative from a player’s perspective and is the primary source of casino income. In games where players compete against each other, the house also takes a percentage of funds betted in a game—this is called the rake.
In 2005 the Harrah’s Entertainment survey of 2,000 American adults found that the typical casino gambler was a forty-six-year-old female from a family with above-average income. Casinos use a variety of psychological and physical tricks to lure gamblers in and keep them gambling. Video cameras constantly monitor gambling areas; chips with built-in microcircuitry allow casinos to oversee bets minute by minute and quickly discover any statistical deviation; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored to detect anomalies.