The casino, like all forms of gambling, has a dark side. The gleaming casinos of the world, romanticized in film and literature with images of high stakes gambling tables surrounded by wealthy guests in tuxedos or evening dresses, can be places where people become addicted to betting and lose control of their finances. Casinos are also notorious for their shady characters. For much of the 20th century they were illegal in most countries, but they attracted mobsters and other criminals who could invest money and influence the outcome of games.

In modern times, casinos are more choosy about who they invite inside. They focus on “high rollers” who spend large amounts of money, often in special rooms separate from the main floor. In exchange for their larger than average bets, they receive a variety of comps – free goods and services such as hotel rooms, dinners, tickets to shows and even airline tickets and limousine service.

Casinos make their money from the edge built into every game of chance. That advantage can be very small – less than two percent in the case of slot machines – but it adds up over time and millions of bets, earning billions in profits for casinos.

Although elaborate hotels, lighted fountains, shopping centers and themed entertainment help draw in gamblers, casinos would not exist without the games themselves. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and a few other table games provide the billions of dollars in profits that casino owners rake in each year.