The Casino – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


The casino – from the glittering strip in Las Vegas to the pai gow tables of New York’s Chinatown – is a place where people play games of chance for money. These games can be anything from baccarat and blackjack to video poker and slot machines. Although casinos also offer dining, shopping and entertainment, the gambling is what makes them profitable. This article explores the ways casinos lure customers, how they make their money and the dark side of gambling.

Gambling has been around for centuries in many cultures. Some of the oldest casinos are in Egypt, Rome and even ancient Mesopotamia. Today’s casinos are more like indoor amusement parks than gambling halls. They are designed to be exciting, colorful and noisy. They are often built near hotels, restaurants, retail shops and tourist attractions. They feature musical shows, lighted fountains and themed architecture. But the vast majority of the profits that casinos rake in every year comes from the millions of dollars that bettors put down on various games of chance.

Every game of chance gives the casino a mathematical advantage, which can be very small or as much as two percent. But that edge, combined with the billions of bets placed by patrons, enables a casino to make huge annual profits. These profits are the financial fuel that allows casinos to build giant pyramids, towers and replicas of famous landmarks.

Despite their massive profits, casinos are not without problems. Problem gamblers, who generate only five percent of casino revenues but 25 percent of their profits, are a major concern. They can cause other gambling patrons to switch to unprofitable games and can hurt local businesses because they divert spending from the community to the casino. In addition, research has shown that casinos harm communities by depressing real estate values and creating a strain on welfare systems to treat problem gamblers.

In the twenty-first century, casinos have become choosier about who they accept as patrons. They have moved away from accepting everyone who wants to gamble and now only welcome high bettors who can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars. These high rollers are usually allowed to gamble in special rooms away from the main casino floor and they receive expensive comps, such as free spectacular entertainment, limousine transportation and luxury suites.

In the past, mobster money made it possible for casinos to operate legally in Nevada. As organized crime money poured into Reno and then Las Vegas, mobsters became personally involved in the operations and took sole or partial ownership of some casinos. But legalization of gambling has been accompanied by a rise in gambling addiction and an increase in criminal activity related to the business.