For many people the word casino invokes images of the glamorous, red-lit gambling dens of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. But the casino is a global phenomenon, and the term covers a wide range of establishments that house gambling activities. In general, casinos are places where players gamble against the “house” – in games where skill plays a role (such as blackjack), or against other patrons at table games like poker. Casinos may also offer other types of entertainment, such as concerts and stage shows.
Because large amounts of money are handled in a casino, security is important. Most casinos employ a variety of techniques to keep patrons and employees safe, including cameras throughout the facility, strict rules on behavior, and sophisticated monitoring systems that detect cheating or theft.
Although casinos were once dominated by organized crime, mob involvement in the gambling industry has declined in recent years. Real estate investors and hotel chains have the deep pockets needed to compete with the mobsters, and federal crackdowns on mob influence in casinos make it harder for gangsters to control their operations.
Some critics claim that the overall economic impact of a casino is negative, because it shifts spending away from other local entertainment and social services. Others point to studies showing that compulsive gambling harms the family and community, as well as to the high cost of treating gambling addiction. The upscale spa town of Baden-Baden, for example, once served as the playground of European royalty and the aristocracy; it’s now among the most elegant casinos in the world.