The Casino Advantage


The modern casino is much like an indoor amusement park for adults, with musical shows, lighted fountains and elaborate themes enticing visitors. But the vast majority of casino profits come from gambling: slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat. Casinos are businesses, and they have built-in advantages that ensure that, on average, they will make more money than their patrons.

These advantages are known as the house edge. They vary by game, but they are always present. While some gamblers may be able to beat the odds by a combination of luck and skill, most will lose in the long run. That is why casinos offer complimentary items, or comps, to big gamblers (a free room, free show tickets and reduced-fare transportation are examples).

In addition to cameras, casinos have many other security measures. Table games, for instance, are monitored by croupiers and pit bosses who watch for blatant cheating such as palming cards or marking dice. Table managers and pit bosses also look for betting patterns that could indicate collusion or a favored player. More sophisticated systems include catwalks in the ceiling that allow surveillance workers to look down, through one-way glass, on a specific area of the casino floor.

In general, the average casino patron is a forty-six-year-old woman from a household with above-average income who has vacation time and available spending money. These patrons make up the largest group, about 23% of the total market. They are a good source of revenue for the casino industry, but critics argue that the cost of treating problem gamblers and the lower property values caused by casinos outweigh the economic gains they bring to local communities.