A casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults. It draws in guests with its elaborate decorations and games of chance, but the bulk of its profits come from gambling. Slot machines, blackjack and roulette generate billions of dollars in profits every year. But what makes them so popular, and what are casinos doing to keep the money coming in?
Casinos make use of many technologies to keep track of patrons and the money. For example, “chip tracking” allows casinos to monitor betting chips for minute-by-minute accuracy and to warn managers quickly of any statistical deviation; a computerized system called the “eye in the sky” watches each game in the casino via a network of cameras and can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons. Casinos also make use of video cameras for general security, and they often have a separate specialized department for monitoring the machines themselves.
Gambling probably predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice found in archaeological digs, but the casino as a place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof did not emerge until the 16th century during a period of gambling mania in Europe. The word “casino” likely derives from a type of Italian private club for wealthy nobles, known as ridotti, where gaming was commonplace.
A casino’s biggest source of revenue is the profit generated by its slot machines, which are based on pure probability. These machines take in cash from patrons, then display varying bands of colored shapes on reels (actual physical reels or a video representation of them), and when the right pattern appears, the machine pays out a fixed amount of money. Casinos may offer bonuses, or comps, to big spenders that can include free rooms, meals and tickets to shows.