What Is a Casino?


A casino is a building or room where gambling activities take place. Generally, the word is used to refer to an establishment in the United States that offers traditional table games like blackjack and roulette, as well as slot machines and poker. In addition, casinos may offer other types of entertainment such as stage shows and dining.

While lavish hotel rooms, restaurants and entertainment help draw in customers, the bulk of the profits for casinos come from games of chance such as slots, keno, craps, baccarat, pai gow poker and blackjack. These games provide the billions of dollars in profits that casino owners rake in each year.

Gambling has been part of human civilization for millennia. Archeologists have discovered dice dating back to 2300 BC, and the game of baccarat was first recorded in the early 1400s. However, modern casinos are far more sophisticated than the old-fashioned games of the past. In addition to the aforementioned games, they offer a wide array of other betting options such as sports, horse races and lottery-like games.

Most states have laws that regulate or prohibit casinos, but the industry has grown rapidly since the 1980s. New Jersey and Atlantic City became popular gambling destinations, while Native American casinos have sprouted up in various regions. The first state to legalize casino gambling was Iowa in the 1990s, and many other states have amended their anti-gambling laws to permit casinos.

In the United States, there are more than 1,000 casinos, and they vary in size and offerings. Some are large resorts with hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues, while others are small neighborhood locations that feature only a handful of table games. Many are operated by local tribes, while others are run by national chains such as Caesars, Harrah’s and MGM Resorts International.

Despite their differences, all casinos rely on the same principles to make money: The house has a mathematical advantage over players that can be expressed as a percentage of expected value, or EV. The house edge is most pronounced in games of pure chance, such as slot machines and roulette, but it also exists in skill-based games such as poker, where the house takes a rake from each pot.

Casinos also spend a lot of time and money on security. Often, they have cameras mounted on the ceiling of the gaming area that provide surveillance workers with a high-tech “eye in the sky.” They can adjust the cameras to zoom in on suspicious patrons and even focus on specific tables or slot machines.

Casinos are also famous for their live entertainment and have played host to a wide variety of performers from Frank Sinatra to Celine Dion, Elton John, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart and Mariah Carey. In fact, some of the most famous casinos in the world were built on the backs of entertainers who wanted to have a venue that reflected their fame. The most famous example is probably the Casino de Venezia, which was originally a theatre and was converted to a casino in 1958.

What Goes On in a Horse Race?

In horse racing, as in most sports, there are crooks who dangerously drug their horses and dupes who labor under the illusion that the sport is broadly fair and honest. There are also masses of honorable souls in the middle who know that it’s more crooked than it ought to be but still don’t do all they could to fix things.

When it comes to thoroughbreds, speed is the thing. That’s because the breed was originally created for chariot racing, in which the horse and rider had to travel long distances at breakneck speeds. Then in the 1700s, when the sport became popular in England, bettors pressed for races that were more like dashes. They would wager on each race’s winner and the horse with the most speed.

The horses were injected that morning with Lasix, a diuretic, noted on the racing form with a boldface “L.” This is given to prevent pulmonary bleeding, which hard running causes in many horses. That may seem surprising, but for decades it was standard practice for nearly every thoroughbred in America to receive the drugs before each race. Lasix works by causing the horse to unload epic amounts of urine—twenty or thirty pounds’ worth.

Before a race starts, the horse is walked through the walking ring. Bettors like to look at the color of a horse’s coat in the ring; a bright, rippling sheen signals that it is in good shape and ready to run. When Mongolian Groom was in the ring that day, his coat looked fine, but at the starting gate he balked. Horses who balk can be frightened or angry, but most often they’re just tired.

Once the starter pulls the cord and the race begins, the stewards and patrol judges (aided by a motion-picture camera) watch for any rule violations. Before a winner is declared, saliva and urine samples are taken from the horse to test for prohibited substances. If a horse is disqualified, its results are annulled and no prize money is awarded.

Then there are the jockeys, or riders. They have to be able to handle the big, powerful animals, but they must also be able to read their minds. The best jockeys can make a horse go places it would never otherwise go. They can coax a slow-moving long shot to catch up with the leaders. They can even get a fast favorite to lose. That’s why bettors cheer for their horses—hardcore daily ones and casual visitors alike—not just by number, but by name. Seabiscuit, for instance, captured the hearts of bettors and the media alike. He was a true crowd-pleaser, and his victories inspired people to root for a different sort of animal: a thoroughbred horse. The earliest written manual on horse care, feeding, and training dates back to 1500 bc in Asia Minor. There are detailed descriptions of chariot and bareback horse racing in Homer’s Iliad, from the 9th or 8th century bc, and a type of steeplechase appears in the Olympic Games from 740 to 700 bc.