From the glamorous hotel casinos of Las Vegas to the illegal pai gow parlors in New York’s Chinatown, people gamble by playing games of chance or skill. Most casinos accept all bets within an established limit, and the house always has a mathematical advantage over players, regardless of the game played. This advantage is known as the house edge.
Casinos make money by charging bettors for the use of their facilities, including a percentage of each bet (known as the vigorish or rake) and by paying out winnings. Some casinos also give free merchandise or services to gamblers, called comps. The amounts of these comps vary by the amount wagered and the level of play.
Because of the large sums of currency handled by casinos, both patrons and staff may be tempted to cheat or steal, either in collusion or independently. To counter this, most casinos are equipped with security measures. These include cameras that monitor patrons’ activity, and catwalks over the gambling floor that allow surveillance personnel to look down through one-way glass at the tables and slot machines.
Despite the reputation of casino gambling as a vice, many Americans do not engage in this activity on a regular basis. In 2008, about 24% of adults reported visiting a casino. According to a 2005 study conducted by Roper Reports GfK NOP and the U.S. Gaming Panel by TNS, the average American casino gambler was a forty-six-year-old woman who lived in a household with above-average income and had more vacation time and spending money than other adults.