The Casino Experience

In 2002, about 51 million people—a quarter of all Americans age 21 or over—visited casinos. Some casinos are huge, and others are famous for their architecture or dining options. One, the Bellagio in Las Vegas, is renowned for its dancing fountains and luxurious rooms and suites, earning a reputation as an international destination for high-stakes gamblers as well as families on vacation. The movie Ocean’s 11 added to its popularity.

Most casinos feature a variety of gambling games, some of which require skill and some of which are strictly chance. Casinos make money by charging a commission on winning bets, a fee known as the house edge or rake. It can be less than two percent, but millions of bets can add up to substantial revenue. Casinos also have security measures in place to deter cheating or stealing.

The history of casinos is long and complex. Gambling almost certainly predates written history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice found in the oldest archaeological sites. However, the modern casino as a center where people could find a variety of gambling opportunities under one roof did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Aristocrats created private gambling houses, called ridotti, where they could indulge their passion for risk without fear of persecution from the Inquisition.

Increasingly, casino owners are using technology to enhance their gaming experience. For example, video cameras are used in some casinos to supervise the games themselves; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored for statistical deviations. Some casinos allow players to use chips with built-in microcircuitry to interact with electronic systems that oversee the exact amounts wagered minute by minute.