What Is a Casino?

A casino, also known as a gambling house or a gaming hall, is an establishment for gambling. Modern casinos are complex commercial enterprises that often include hotel rooms, restaurants, retail shops, and other entertainment facilities. The games played in casinos are based on chance, with the house taking a small percentage of the money wagered. The gambling industry is a major source of revenue for state governments and local municipalities.

Although modern casinos may feature musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers, the vast majority of their profits come from games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette and craps are among the most popular games. Craps, with its big bets and high house edge, appeals to the larger gamblers. Roulette and blackjack attract smaller bettors by offering low house edges, sometimes less than 1 percent.

Casinos also make money by giving away free goods and services to their most loyal customers. These “comps” can include hotel rooms, food, show tickets and even airline tickets. Comps are a key part of the casino’s marketing strategy, and they help to offset the high cost of running a casino.

While gambling probably predates recorded history, the modern casino as an integrated entertainment facility emerged in the 16th century during a gambling craze that swept Europe. Casinos are generally considered to be legal only when they are operated by licensed, regulated establishments, which must meet certain criteria. Most of these criteria are intended to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable people and the financing of illegal activities.