The modern casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults, with a huge percentage of the entertainment (and profits) coming from gambling. Musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers, hotels and elaborate themes all help attract visitors, but without games of chance such as blackjack, roulette, poker, craps and keno casinos would have no raison de être.
While legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in casinos because of their seamy association with illegal rackets such as extortion and drug dealing, organized crime figures had plenty of cash to spare and poured it into Reno and Las Vegas. In many cases they became sole or part owners and influenced the outcome of games, although federal crackdowns and fear of losing a gaming license at the slightest hint of mob involvement has helped to keep them away from the businesses that now earn billions of dollars in annual profits.
Casinos offer a wide variety of gambling games, from the traditional to the exotic. Card games are a staple, with the classics such as blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer being found worldwide. Some casinos also feature a selection of Asian games, such as sic bo and fan-tan. Occasionally, other games of local interest may be featured as well.
Slot machines are the economic backbone of casinos, accounting for a much larger proportion of casino profits than any other game. The simplicity of these machines, which require nothing more than a deposit of money and the pull of a handle or push of a button to begin play, accounts for their popularity. In fact, no amount of player skill or strategy can affect the odds of a particular spin. Varying bands of colored shapes roll on reels (actual physical reels or a virtual one) to determine the outcome, and a computer inside each machine ensures that every spin is independent of any previous ones.
Other games, such as roulette, which is the principal gambling game in France, and the American version of the game of craps are also common in casinos. A few casinos feature the European version of baccarat and trente et quarante, while some offer other poker variants such as Caribbean stud.
In addition to the games of chance, most casinos also feature a number of tables that allow patrons to gamble against each other, either by placing bets or raking the pot. The profits from these games are split between the players and the casino, which makes its money by taking a percentage of each bet or charging an hourly fee. In some cases, the casino may also offer drinks or food to players as an incentive to wager. These additional attractions make the casino a more attractive venue to visit. But these extras aren’t enough to make up for the house’s built-in advantage, which is called the “house edge.” This advantage varies from game to game and over time, but it is a constant. The longer a player gambles, the more likely they are to lose money.