Gambling in one form or another has been a popular pastime for most of human history. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers help casinos draw in customers, the billions of dollars they make every year are generated by games of chance such as blackjack, roulette, craps, slots and baccarat.
Although there are some variations, casino gambling is generally the same worldwide: tables with a variety of games, betting chips with built-in microcircuitry that enables the casinos to monitor each bet minute by minute and warn them of any statistical deviation; automated slot machines that take in bets at rates ranging from five cents to a dollar; and sophisticated surveillance systems that keep an eye on every table and window change.
Casinos are also designed to maximize the house edge, a mathematical advantage that ensures they, not their patrons, will win in the long run. As a result, casinos rarely lose money for more than a single day. Big bettors, known as high rollers, are lavishly rewarded with comps, which may include free spectacular entertainment, reduced-fare transportation, luxury hotel rooms and even airline tickets and limo service.
Casinos are not immune to the lure of cheating, stealing and fraud. Something about the environment seems to encourage people to try to manipulate odds, rather than relying on random chance. Consequently, casinos spend a lot of time and money on security. But it’s not just the big crooks that have casinos on their radar screens. Even small places with a few tables and free drinks can be magnets for unscrupulous players.