What Is a Casino?
A casino is a gambling establishment, offering various games of chance and some involving skill. Casinos are commonly built near or combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shops, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions. The games played in casinos include baccarat, blackjack, poker, roulette, craps, and slot machines. Some casinos also have stage shows and other entertainment to draw in customers. In the United States, about 51 million people—a quarter of all Americans age 21 and older—visited a casino in 2007.
Although modern casinos add a wide range of amenities to attract gamblers (such as luxury resort hotels, lighted fountains, musical shows, shopping centers, and theme parks), they are still primarily places for gambling. Slot machines, table games like blackjack and roulette, and other gambling activities generate billions of dollars in profits for casino owners each year.
Despite their popularity, casinos have had a long and troubled history. For the most part, they were illegal throughout most of the nation’s history. Even after Nevada legalized gambling, it took decades for other states to follow suit. While mobster involvement in the early days of casino development slowed down growth, subsequent federal crackdowns and the ability of casino chains to buy out mafia interests have helped legitimize the business. However, critics contend that the cost of treating compulsive gamblers and lost productivity due to gambling addiction more than offset any economic gains a casino may provide a community. Casinos are also sometimes blamed for lowering property values in nearby neighborhoods.