The modern casino is a sprawling entertainment complex that generates billions of dollars in profits every year from games of chance. The games include slots, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps. The casinos also offer musical shows and shopping centers to attract patrons. But it’s the gambling that draws people in and keeps them playing. The house always wins in the end.
While the gambling industry is largely controlled by mobster interests, it’s not entirely illegal. Many states have legalized casinos in recent years. The largest concentration of casinos is in Nevada, with a second cluster in Atlantic City and another in Chicago.
Gambling in all its forms has been around for thousands of years. It was practiced in Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, Napoleon’s France and Elizabethan England. It was even a popular pastime among early American Indians. But the legalization of casino gambling has been controversial. It has led to a decrease in property values in some areas, increased crime rates and an increase in gambling addiction.
Movies about casinos and the people who run them tend to focus on corruption, betrayal and violence. The characters are often despicable, but their misdeeds make for compelling drama. One of the best examples of this is Casino, starring Robert De Niro as Frank “Lefty” Lindo and Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna. The film reveals the intricate web of corruption that centered in Las Vegas, with tendrils reaching to politicians, Teamsters unions and the Midwest mafia.
Despite the sleaze and venality of their business, casinos are essentially legitimate enterprises that provide a necessary service. They accept all bets within an established limit, and it is highly unlikely that a patron will win more than the casino can afford to pay. Each game has a built-in advantage, known as the house edge, which represents the average gross profit that the casino expects to earn on that game.
In addition to security cameras, casinos use other measures to ensure that gamblers are not cheating or stealing from one another. Table managers and pit bosses keep close watch on the patrons at their tables to ensure that no one is using a hot deck, marking cards or switching dice. The dealers also work closely with the managers, who can spot patterns of betting that may indicate a cheating attempt.
Casinos also reward their regular patrons with free hotel rooms, dinners and tickets to shows. The comps are known as “comps.” Casinos also encourage their guests to spend more time gambling by wafting scented oils through the ventilation system. The pleasant aroma creates a manufactured sense of happiness that makes players feel like they are at their favorite resort.
Despite these efforts, some people still try to cheat the casinos. These attempts may be made in collusion with others or alone. Those who do succeed in cheating or stealing are usually punished by the establishment. In most cases, the criminals are convicted and required to pay back the casino the money that they stole. In some cases, the casino will offer a settlement to the criminals.