A casino is a place where gambling activities are carried out. It might feature a stage show, free drinks and dramatic scenery, but casinos would not exist without the games of chance that are a cornerstone of their operation. Slot machines, baccarat, blackjack, roulette and craps generate the billions of dollars that make up the casino industry’s profit base.
The word casino is derived from the Latin word for “house,” and the modern gambling establishment has certainly evolved from those smoky, shadowy, illegal places that once housed a variety of gambling activities. Today’s casinos have a more refined tropical motif and offer amenities like spas, luxury suites and fine dining, in addition to the requisite roulette wheel and blackjack table.
Casinos earn their money by offering a statistical advantage to players, known as the house edge. The advantage is often lower than two percent, but it adds up over time and millions of bets. This is how the casino makes enough money to build its towers, pyramids and replicas of world-famous landmarks.
During the 1940s and ’50s Mafia figures controlled many of the casino businesses in Nevada, thanks to their rich sources of criminal cash. The mobsters’ deep pockets allowed them to take sole or partial ownership of some casinos, and they even rigged games to their own benefit. Federal crackdowns and the fear of losing a gaming license at the slightest hint of mob involvement meant that legitimate businessmen soon realized how much money they could make from casinos.