The Casino Experience

The word “casino” conjures up images of bright lights, big money and a slew of chances to try your luck at a variety of gambling games. From the glitter of the Las Vegas strip to the tiny mountain towns where 19th century Wild West buildings house a few poker tables, casinos can be found all over the United States. Some are enormous, like the 4.7 million-square-foot Foxwoods casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Indian tribe. Others are more modest, but all offer visitors a chance to test their skills against the elusive Lady Luck.

Casinos exist to provide entertainment and a place for people to gamble, and they make billions in profits every year. Although musical shows, lighted fountains and lavish hotels help draw in the crowds, casinos would not survive without the billions of dollars raked in by the games of chance they feature. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and other casino games generate the bulk of their profits.

Unlike home games, where the players are all aware of their surroundings and can readily see cheating such as palming, marking or switching cards, casino dealers and pit bosses have to focus on each game and the patrons, observing betting patterns that might indicate cheating. In addition to the dealers and pit bosses, each table in a casino has a higher-up person watching to make sure everyone is following protocol.

As the casino business in Nevada grew during the 1950s, mobster money helped fuel the expansion. Although legitimate businessmen were hesitant to invest their own capital in casinos, mobster money was plentiful and came with little or no strings attached. In many cases, organized crime figures took sole or partial ownership of the casinos they funded and exerted undue influence over decisions made by management.

Today’s casinos are designed to keep patrons in the mood to gamble, and this is especially true in Las Vegas, where casinos often boast a themed environment. Colorful carpets or richly tiled hallways complement the lighting, which is dimmed slightly to enhance the atmosphere of excitement and mystery. Frequently, a large prize of some kind, such as a sports car on a pedestal, is displayed prominently to lure the gamblers in.

Most casinos have a comp system that gives free goods and services to regulars, based on the amount of time they spend playing and their level of play. This can include food, hotel rooms and even limo service and airline tickets. Ask a casino host or player’s club representative to learn how to get your play rated and take advantage of this perk.

While it may be hard to believe, there was a time when casino gambling was illegal in most of the United States. In the 1970s, several states legalized casinos, usually by permitting them on American Indian reservations where state antigambling laws did not apply. Today, most states have relaxed their prohibitions and have casinos to rival those in Nevada.