A casino is a place where people can gamble and play games of chance. It may be a grand affair, like the one in Baden-Baden, Germany, where the emphasis is on design and elegance. Alternatively, it might be a sprawling complex that looks like an indoor amusement park for adults, with tables for blackjack and roulette, poker, craps and more than 130 slot machines. Casinos are a major source of entertainment and generate billions of dollars in profits each year, but they also have an unfavorable impact on the communities that host them. The money they bring in shifts spending away from other forms of local entertainment and the cost of treating compulsive gamblers offsets any economic benefits.

Every game in a casino has a built-in statistical advantage for the house, which can be as small as less than two percent. The advantage adds up over the millions of bets placed and gives the casino a virtual assurance of gross profit. This is why casinos can afford to offer extravagant inducements for big bettors, such as free spectacular entertainment and transportation and elegant living quarters.

The use of technology in casinos increased dramatically during the 1990s, and now routinely includes computerized monitoring of betting chips with microcircuitry to reveal any deviation from their expected values; electronic systems that automatically tally the odds of winning at various table games; and “video surveillance” of gambling areas, allowing security personnel to watch players through one-way mirrors.