The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it has been a part of human culture for as long as people have had the need for entertainment. Casinos provide gambling opportunities in a controlled environment. These facilities are often combined with hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and other tourist attractions. Some casinos also offer sports betting and horse racing. Compulsive gambling is a significant problem in many casinos and has contributed to a negative economic impact on communities where it exists. The high cost of treating gambling addicts and the lost productivity of workers who gamble away their incomes more than offset any revenue generated by the casinos.
Casino games are primarily based on chance, with some games having an element of skill. However, the house always has a mathematical advantage over players. This advantage, which can be expressed in terms of expected value and is uniformly negative from the player’s perspective, is the “house edge.” In some games, such as poker where players play against each other, the casino takes a percentage of the pot called the rake. Casinos sometimes give out complimentary goods or services to players, known as comps.
During the 1990s casinos dramatically increased their use of technology to monitor and control games. For example, the chips used in table games contain microcircuitry that interacts with the game’s computer system to oversee the exact amounts wagered minute by minute and to warn dealers of any statistical deviations. Roulette wheels are electronically monitored to detect any mechanical anomalies. In addition, video cameras monitor player activity and the patterns of behavior that are considered suspicious.