What Is a Casino?

A casino is an establishment for gambling. It can be a large facility housing a variety of games and machines or a small card room in a hotel or other building. Successful casinos bring in billions of dollars each year for the owners, investors, and Native American tribes that operate them. State and local governments also reap substantial tax revenues from casinos. In addition, gambling facilities may offer sports betting and horse racing or serve as venues for entertainment acts and other events.

The first casinos were built in Nevada, where legalized gambling began in 1931. Organized crime figures controlled many of the operations and supplied capital for expansion. Because of their seamy image, legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in casinos. Mafia members, however, had plenty of cash from drug dealing, extortion, and other illegal rackets. They poured it into the casinos, taking ownership or control in some cases and influencing game outcomes.

While most people associate casinos with Las Vegas, there are dozens of other locations with one or more gaming floors. Those facilities include traditional stand-alone casinos, hotel-casinos, and a few that are located on cruise ships or in international destinations. Many states have legalized some forms of gambling and have licenses for casinos.

Each casino game has a built in advantage for the house, which can be less than two percent of total bets. This advantage is called the “house edge” or “vigorish,” and it ensures that the casino will make money over time. In games of skill, such as blackjack and video poker, the house also takes a rake, which can be lower or higher depending on the rules.

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