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A casino is a gambling establishment where people play games of chance for money. Musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers help draw in the crowds, but it’s the games of chance – slot machines, blackjack, poker, craps, baccarat and roulette – that provide the billions of dollars in profits casinos rake in every year.

Most casino games are based on luck, but some have an element of skill involved. The mathematical odds of each game give the house a built-in advantage over the players, and this is called the house edge. Casinos profit from this by giving out complimentary items or comps to players, based on the amount of time they gamble and the size of their bets.

Security is a big part of the casino business, and the security staff keeps an eye on the floor and the players to catch cheating. The routines of the games, the way a dealer shuffles and deals cards and the placement of bet spots on the table all follow certain patterns, and it’s easy for security personnel to spot deviations from these expected behaviors.

While legitimate businessmen were wary of getting involved in casinos, organized crime figures saw a way to increase their power and wealth by running the games. Mafia money flowed steadily into Reno and Las Vegas, and mob members became personal investors and took sole or partial ownership of many casinos. Some casinos have been shut down for illegal activities such as money laundering or racketeering, and economic studies suggest that the negative impact of compulsive gambling more than offsets any positive effect a casino may have on a community.