A casino, also known as a gaming house or a gambling establishment, is an establishment where certain types of gambling activities take place. These activities include card games, table games and other games of chance. A casino may also offer food and drink. In some countries, casinos are licensed and regulated by a government agency. The term is derived from the Latin caino, meaning “small barn”. A casino may be integrated into a hotel, resort or other facility, and it may operate as a standalone entertainment venue. In the United States, casinos are legal in Nevada and New Jersey, and in many other jurisdictions around the world.
While it is possible for individual gamblers to win large amounts of money in a casino, it is very rare. Every casino game has a built-in mathematical advantage for the house, which is usually quite small (less than two percent), but when combined with millions of bets it can generate substantial profits. This advantage is referred to as the vig or rake, and it is what keeps the casino in business.
To maximize their profit potential, casino owners have to understand the house edge and variance of each game they offer. The mathematicians and computer programmers that do this work for casinos are called gaming mathematicians or analysts. During the 1990s, as casino gambling became more popular, these specialists made tremendous advances in the technology that monitors and controls the games. Some examples: betting chips with built-in microcircuitry allow casinos to oversee exact amounts wagered minute by minute and warn them quickly if the results deviate from expected patterns; roulette wheels are electronically monitored regularly to discover statistical deviations as they happen; and video cameras watch everything that happens in the rooms.
Casinos are a major tourist attraction and contribute greatly to the economies of cities in which they are located. They provide employment for many people and attract out-of-town tourists, increasing revenue for hotels, restaurants and retail shops. However, critics argue that gambling is addictive and reduces the quality of life for the local population by diverting resources away from family, school and work. In addition, it can lower property values and hurt local housing markets.
In 2005, the average casino patron was a forty-six-year-old female with an above-average income and available spending cash. She lived with her husband or boyfriend and was a non-smoker. A typical gambling trip was five days long and consisted of two to four games played per day. The average casino bet was $45. Most gamblers are not professional players, but amateurs who hope to improve their chances of winning by learning the rules of each game and by studying the strategies used by the pros. Those who possess sufficient skills to eliminate the inherent long-term disadvantage of a casino game are called advantage players. These people are generally considered to be the most reputable of all casino patrons.