A casino is a gambling establishment that offers a variety of games of chance. It is considered to be a glamorous and prestigious enterprise, as its patrons include royalty and other members of the aristocracy. Many casinos offer a wide variety of entertainment, including musical shows and lighted fountains. But they are primarily profit centers for their owners, and would not exist without the billions of dollars in bets made on slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno and other casino card games.
A large part of the profits comes from a built in statistical advantage for the casino, known as the house edge. This edge can be relatively small, but it adds up over time as millions of bets are placed. It provides enough money for casinos to build elaborate hotels, towers and replicas of famous landmarks around the world. It also allows them to pay out winning bets quickly.
In the beginning, the only people who could afford to own and operate casinos were organized crime figures with lots of cash from their drug dealing, extortion and other illegal activities. They put up the capital to establish casinos in Nevada and elsewhere, but were often personally involved, took sole or partial ownership of the facilities and even influenced the outcome of specific games.
As the industry has matured, real estate investors and hotel chains have become involved. Although they cannot compete with the mob in terms of sheer capital, they can attract high-end customers by offering luxuries like private jets and gourmet restaurants. While some of this affluence may trickle back into the community, studies suggest that the increased cost of treating problem gamblers and lost productivity from their addictions more than offsets any local economic gains.