The glamorous casino is a place of surface decadence, with flashing lights and dazzling decor. It’s where gamblers clamor over the tables, shout encouragement to each other and bet on their chances of winning. Alcoholic drinks are readily available and delivered to patrons, as are snacks. Various types of entertainment, from stage shows to live music, is offered at the many tables and slot machines.

In 2008, about 24% of Americans age 21 and over visited a casino (see Figure 2.5 in Chapter 2). These visitors spent about $26.2 billion on gambling. They also spent about $51.5 billion on lodging, meals, drinks and other expenses while in casinos.

Casinos make their money by taking a small percentage of each bet, usually less than two percent. This edge gives casinos enough income to pay for elaborate hotels, fountains and replicas of famous landmarks. The casinos are also able to make money from the “vig” or rake that players pay to be allowed to play the games.

Because of this virtual assurance of a profit, casinos offer patrons extravagant inducements to gamble, often providing free spectacular entertainment and luxury suites. They can even give players reduced-fare transportation, food and drink while they are gambling. Some economists argue, however, that the cost of treating gambling addiction and the loss of productivity from people who spend time in casinos cancels out any economic gains that the gambling industry provides to a community. In addition to these inducements, casinos use sophisticated security measures to deter cheating and theft. They have cameras that monitor every face, window and doorway, which can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons by staff in a separate room filled with banks of monitors.