The Dark Side of Casinos

Whether you’re hitting the slots, throwing dice on the craps table, putting on your poker face or aiming for high scores at the roulette wheel, casinos are the perfect place to satisfy your gambling itch. But while musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and lavish hotels all help to attract customers, casinos would not exist without games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and other games of chance provide the billions in profits that casinos rake in each year.

Casinos make money by systematically giving the house an advantage over players in each game played. While this advantage may be small, it adds up over time and millions of bets placed each year to earn the casino a substantial profit. This advantage is known as the house edge or vig, and it is calculated by using the mathematical formula Expected Value (EV). In games with an element of skill, such as blackjack and poker, the casino takes a commission called a rake.

Although gambling probably existed in some form long before recorded history, the modern casino as we know it developed during a gambling craze in Europe during the 16th century. During this period, the casino as a place to find a variety of gambling games under one roof became popular among European nobility and other elites, who often held parties at places called ridotti (little houses). Today, casinos offer everything from dazzling video screens and immersive environments to state-of-the-art security systems. But they also come with a dark side. Research suggests that casinos divert spending from local businesses and cause harm to people who become addicted to gambling.