From the raucous craps tables of Las Vegas to the elegant pai gow games of New York’s Chinatown, casinos are public places where people can gamble and play a variety of games. They add other luxuries like restaurants, stage shows and dramatic scenery to persuade patrons to spend money they might not have otherwise. But the core of the casino is still gambling.

Every casino game has a built in advantage for the house, or “vig,” and this edge earns them money over time. It might only be a few percent of each wager, but millions of bets make this a significant revenue source. Casinos also have other sources of income, such as reduced-fare transportation and hotel rooms, and the ability to sell alcohol and cigarettes.

Because of this virtual assurance of gross profit, most casinos can afford to give big bettors extravagant inducements such as free spectacular entertainment and limousine rides. They can also offer lesser bettors reduced-fare transportation, free drinks while they gamble and hotel rooms.

Besides the obvious security guards on the floor, casinos employ a variety of other techniques to keep track of their customers. For example, betting chips have built-in microcircuitry to let casinos monitor them minute by minute and spot any statistical deviation from the expected pattern. And video cameras and computers can observe every face of each slot machine to look for shady activities. While mobsters once controlled many of the world’s casinos, real estate investors and hotel chains have enough money to buy out the mob and run their own.

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