A casino (also called a gambling house or gaming establishment) is an institution that allows customers to gamble by offering various games of chance. Some casinos are standalone buildings while others are incorporated into hotels, restaurants, retail shops or cruise ships. Casinos may also offer live entertainment such as concerts or stand-up comedy and are sometimes known as the “place to be seen” for high-society gamblers.

The word casino derives from the Italian word cassa’, meaning ‘little house’; this reflects the origin of the first modern casinos, which were small clubhouses for Italians to meet in during social occasions. By the late 19th century, nearly all of Europe had changed its laws to permit casinos.

In the United States, casinos are regulated by state law and are often operated by large corporations such as hotel-casino chains. These firms have the resources to invest in elaborate surveillance systems that can monitor the activity of all patrons, as well as control payouts on slot machines and table games.

Casinos are also designed around customer service and offer perks to encourage and reward patrons. These include free spectacular entertainment, transportation, luxury living quarters, and reduced-fare or free food and drinks. In addition, many casinos have card-game tables that feature baccarat, chemin de fer, blackjack, and poker variants such as Caribbean stud and trente et quarante. In general, most card-game tables have fixed odds that ensure that the house will win. This mathematical advantage is called the house edge.