What Is a Casino?

A casino is a facility for certain types of gambling. Some casinos are standalone buildings while others are combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shops, cruise ships or other tourist attractions. In the United States, casinos are most often located in towns or cities with large populations, especially those that are able to support the high overhead costs of such facilities.

In 2002, about 51 million people — or nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population over 21 — visited casinos, according to the American Gaming Association. That’s more than the number of visitors to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. The casino industry is thriving partly because casinos appeal to many people, from those who travel great distances to play in places like Nevada or Atlantic City to those who flock to legal pai gow parlors in New York or illegal baccarat tables in Chinatown.

Because casino games are social in nature and involve direct interaction with other patrons, there is a strong psychological element to them. To compensate for this, casinos focus on making gambling as enjoyable as possible. They create an environment of noise, light and excitement to entice people to gamble. They offer free drinks and food, cigarette smoking while gambling is permitted and stage shows.

In addition, they use comps to reward loyal customers. A “comp” is a free good or service, such as a meal, show tickets, hotel room or limo ride. During the 1970s, Las Vegas casinos were famous for offering deeply discounted travel packages and cheap buffets to attract big gamblers.