The Dark Side of Casinos


A casino is a place where you can play games of chance. It may sound like an old-fashioned notion to some of you; after all, your grandmother took weekend bus trips with her friends to the nearest casino for a chance at winning the big jackpot. But casinos are more than a place to wager your money; they’re a full-scale entertainment facility that has grown into a massive enterprise, complete with restaurants, hotels, spas and other amenities that are designed to appeal to the whole family.

While musical shows, lighted fountains and other high-end amenities are a major part of what draws people to casinos, the vast majority of the business is gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and other gambling games are the basis of the billions of dollars in profits that U.S. casinos rake in every year.

Despite their popularity, however, these games aren’t necessarily foolproof. Even the most experienced gamblers can lose their fortune if they’re not careful. That’s why it’s so important to know how to gamble responsibly and always set limits on your losses.

Casinos are a complex world of glitz and glamour, but they’re not without their dark side. For example, the casino industry is often linked to organized crime and a seamy past that includes illegal rackets such as drug dealing, money laundering, extortion and other illicit activities. In fact, mobsters have provided the bulk of the capital for many casino enterprises in Nevada and elsewhere.

The casino industry is also notorious for its focus on customer service and the use of incentives, called comps, to encourage players to spend more time and money at their tables and slots. These comps can range from free meals and drinks to hotel rooms and even luxury cars. During the 1970s Las Vegas casinos were famous for offering deeply discounted travel packages, cheap buffets and free show tickets to anyone who wanted to gamble there.

In addition to the comps, casinos use psychological manipulation to keep people coming back. For example, the floor of a casino is typically covered in bright and sometimes gaudy colors that are thought to stimulate the brain and cheer up people, so that they’ll be less likely to stop playing when their luck runs out. Similarly, many casinos don’t have clocks on the walls because they want patrons to forget about the passage of time and continue playing as long as possible.

The other way casinos guarantee profitability is by making sure that the house edge on all their games is low enough to attract bettors. The house edge on individual casino games can be very small, usually lower than two percent, but when multiplied by the millions of bets made by gamblers each day that edge adds up quickly. Because of this, it is rare for a casino to make a loss on any one game in a given day. This virtual assurance of profitability allows casinos to offer large bettors extravagant inducements such as free spectacular entertainment, reduced-fare transportation and elegant living quarters.