What is a Casino?

A casino is a gambling establishment with table games, slot machines and poker rooms. It can also include restaurants, hotels, non-gambling entertainment and other amenities. The casino industry is highly competitive. Casinos are essentially competing not only with each other but also with non-gambling resorts, on-line gaming and an illegal gambling business that is much larger than their legal operations.

In 2002, about 51 million people visited casinos, according to the Washington-based American Gaming Association. That represents about a quarter of the population over 21. Most of the visits were to Nevada, the biggest gambling destination in the world. But there are casinos all over the world, and some have become as famous as Las Vegas.

Casinos are designed to be a labyrinth of gaming sections that beckon patrons to try their luck and distract them from basic human needs like food and sleep. Curving paths lead away from the entrance and toward more tables or slots, and even the restrooms are tucked away deep within the complex. It’s easy to get lost inside and end up betting more money than you should.

Gambling has been a popular form of entertainment throughout history, from Ancient Mesopotamia to Napoleon’s France and Elizabethan England. It has always been a risky enterprise, however, and many gamblers lose more than they win. That’s why casinos offer comps, or free goods and services that players can earn depending on their level of play. These can include things like hotel rooms, meals, tickets to shows or limo service.