What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where gamblers risk their money in games of chance for the opportunity to win prizes, usually money or merchandise. The exact origin of gambling is unknown, but it is widely believed that some form of it has been present in all societies throughout history. Some casinos specialize in specific games of chance, while others offer a wide variety of entertainment options, including video poker, slot machines and table games. A few casinos even host tournaments in which players compete against each other rather than against the house, as is the case with standard poker.

Gambling is a highly addictive activity. In fact, compulsive gambling generates a disproportionate amount of casino profits, with an estimated five percent of casino patrons having a gambling problem [Source: PBS]. Local economic studies indicate that the net value of a casino to a community is negative because it draws people from out-of-town who spend their money in casinos instead of on other forms of local entertainment. Also, casinos hurt property values in their neighborhoods.

Every game that a casino offers has a built-in mathematical expectancy of winning for the house, although the size of this advantage varies depending on the rules and the specifics of each game. Consequently, it is rare for a casino to lose money on any one day of operation. This virtual assurance of gross profit gives casinos the financial freedom to offer big bettors extravagant inducements such as free spectacular entertainment and luxurious living quarters. In addition, casinos often provide their patrons with complimentary food and drinks while gambling, reduced-fare transportation to and from the casino, and hotel rooms at discounted rates.

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