A casino is a gambling establishment that offers games of chance. Its flashing lights and free cocktails lure gamblers into a building that is engineered to slowly bleed its patrons of cash. Beneath the gloss of bright lights and blaring music, casinos stand on a bedrock of mathematics, engineered to give the house an advantage that is uniformly negative from the player’s perspective. This advantage, known as the “house edge” is calculated by mathematically determined odds, which are reflected in the rules of each game. In games where skill is involved, such as blackjack, the house edge can be reduced by applying advanced strategy techniques. In games where players compete against each other, such as poker, the casino earns money by taking a commission, called the rake.
Despite the high percentage of losses, casinos still make billions in profits each year. Gambling machines, such as slots and video poker, are responsible for most of the revenue generated by casinos. Table games, such as baccarat, craps, roulette and blackjack, are also popular and profitable. In addition, some casinos are able to attract large bettors and offer them complimentary items, known as comps, such as food, drinks and hotel rooms.
While mob-controlled casinos dominated the business in the 1950s, legitimate businessmen were reluctant to get involved with the gambling industry because of its seamy image. By the 1990s, many casinos began to use technology to monitor their games. For example, betting chips with built-in microcircuitry interact with electronic systems that allow the casinos to oversee exactly what is being wagered minute by minute and alert them if the odds are out of line. In addition, many of the tables are monitored by electronic cameras mounted on the ceiling to detect cheating and other anomalies.