What Is a Casino?

A casino—which some call a gambling house, though they also may use the term for other types of establishments for gambling (see Casino (disambiguation) and Gambling House)—is an entertainment complex that offers a variety of games of chance for money, as well as restaurants, bars, hotels, and other tourist attractions. It has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment worldwide, and is especially widespread in North America and Europe.

The casinos of today are like indoor amusement parks for adults, with elaborate decor and a mind-boggling number of games. They often feature hotel rooms, restaurants, non-gambling game rooms, swimming pools, bars and more. But it is the games of chance that generate most of the billions in profits casinos rake in every year. Slot machines, roulette, blackjack, craps, baccarat and other games of chance give casinos their name—and the billions in profit.

Casinos make their money by charging a percentage of each wager—the “house edge”—to players. They can also earn revenue by giving away free goods or services to “good” players. These complimentary items are called comps and are based on the amount of time and money a player spends playing.

Once a haven for organized crime, mobster ownership of many casinos has declined in the late 20th century as real estate investors and hotel chains realized how lucrative the industry was. Federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a license at even the slightest hint of mob interference help keep legitimate casinos safe from criminal control.