The word casino is derived from the Italian city of Casino, meaning “little castle.” Today, casinos are like an indoor amusement park for adults—they offer dazzling lights, opulent furnishings and flashy drinks, but most of their billions in profits come from gambling. It’s easy to forget, however, that all those shiny rewards and giveaways depend on the irrevocable laws of probability.
Regardless of how much money patrons gamble, the casino always wins. This is because every game offers a mathematical expectancy that it will win, and as the bets increase, the expected profit increases proportionally. The only way a casino can lose money is by taking bets beyond its means or by cheating. To assure their own profitability, casinos are usually built in a remote location and use expensive security systems such as a high-tech eye-in-the-sky monitors that can focus on a table or window at will and alert security personnel to suspicious or criminal activity.
The mob controlled many of the early casinos in Nevada because they had a ready source of cash from drug dealing, extortion and other illegal rackets. But when legitimate businessmen such as Donald Trump and Hilton hotel chains saw the potential of the casino industry, they bought out the gangsters and began operating their own venues without mafia interference. Mafia involvement, however, continues to taint the reputation of gambling and makes it difficult for legitimate businesses to get financial backing from banks or private investors.