The casino industry is not only large, but also complex and confusing. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers help lure patrons to casinos, the vast majority of the revenue is generated by games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat generate billions in profits for casino owners every year. But there is one thing about gambling that everybody should know: the house always wins.
This house edge is usually quite small, but it adds up over the millions of bets placed by casino patrons. This money is the “vig” or “rake,” and it allows the casino to operate with a virtual guarantee of profitability.
Because of this built-in advantage, a casino is able to offer big jackpots to attract and retain players. This entices people to play for longer periods of time, increasing the average gross profit per player. But there is a dark side to the casino business, and it isn’t just the blatant crooks that are trying to steal patrons’ money. There is something about casino gambling that encourages some players to cheat, steal and bribe in order to win. That’s why casinos spend a great deal of money and effort on security.
Historically, casinos were primarily mob-run operations in Las Vegas and other areas that had legalized gambling. But in the 1990s, real estate investors and hotel chains realized the potential profits of casinos, and bought out many of the mobsters. Federal crackdowns on organized crime and the threat of losing a casino gaming license at any hint of mob involvement mean that legitimate businesses are now running most casinos.
There is also a great deal of technology in modern casinos, used to monitor both the players and the games themselves. Cameras watch every table, game window and doorway, and are controlled by a room filled with banks of security monitors. Electronic systems track the exact amount of money wagered minute by minute and warn if the results deviate from expected values. In addition, games that require a dealer, such as roulette and craps, are monitored electronically, with betting chips having built-in microcircuitry that allows the casino to monitor their activity.
In addition to these technological measures, casinos offer free goods and services to “good” players, called comps. These can include free show tickets, hotel rooms and drinks. They can even include limo service and airline tickets for big gamblers. This is all to keep the good gamblers coming back, and the bad ones away. It appears to be working, as there is no shortage of gamblers, and more states are allowing casino gambling. It is estimated that 40 states now have some form of legalized casino gambling.