A casino, also known as a gaming establishment or a gambling hall, is a place where people gamble by playing games of chance, and in some cases with an element of skill. The most popular games are baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and slot machines. Casinos usually have a built in mathematical advantage over the players, which can be small (less than two percent) or large (up to several thousand dollars). This edge is known as the house edge. Casinos earn money by charging a fee to patrons who play the games. This fee is called the vig or rake. Casinos also give out complimentary items or comps to attract and keep customers.
Modern casinos have two separate security departments, a physical security force that patrols the property and a specialized surveillance department that operates the closed circuit television system. The surveillance department has catwalks that allow them to look directly down on the table games and slot machines from above.
While casinos bring in enormous amounts of money, they are not without their problems. Gambling addiction, for instance, has a negative effect on the local economy by diverting spending from other sources of entertainment and by cutting into productivity at gambling establishments. In addition, the cost of treating problem gambling and lost earnings by compulsive gamblers offsets any positive economic gains from casino operations. For these reasons, the benefits of casinos to local communities are often disputed. Nevertheless, many cities and states continue to support their gambling industries.