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What Is a Casino?

A casino is a gambling establishment that accepts bets on games of chance and pays out winnings based on a percentage of the money bet. It has a reputation of being glamorous, with dazzling lights and flashing screens and an array of games. Casinos are found worldwide and, in the United States, operate under state and federal laws.

Most casino games have some degree of skill or strategy involved, but the overwhelming majority have a built-in house advantage, which is mathematically determined. This advantage can be very small, less than two percent, but it is enough to make casinos profitable. Casinos take advantage of this by taking a commission, often called a vig or rake, on the money gamblers place in the games.

Modern casinos use cameras and computers for security, and computerized systems routinely oversee the games themselves to discover any statistical deviations from expected results. For example, “chip tracking” allows a casino to monitor the exact amount of money being wagered minute by minute and warn bettors of any abnormalities; a roulette wheel is electronically monitored regularly to detect any anomaly.

Slot machines are the economic backbone of American casinos, with a large proportion of profits coming from players who put in large amounts and play frequently. They are easy to understand, requiring only the deposit of coins or paper tickets with barcodes; the player then pulls or pushes a handle or button and watches varying bands of colored shapes roll on reels (either actual physical ones or a video representation of them). Most casinos reward big bettors with free room service, meals, limousine transportation and shows, in addition to their monetary winnings.