From clinking slot machines to the shuffling of cards, casinos are the ultimate gambling destination for those who love the adrenaline rush. Some people travel the world solely to visit one, while others are pleasantly surprised by an exquisite casino they stumble upon while vacationing in a foreign land. The effervescent energy of a casino will leave you itching to hit the slots, spin the roulette wheel or put your best poker face forward at the table.

Casinos generate enormous profits based on simple rules of chance. Each game has a mathematically determined advantage for the house (or bank). These odds can be very low, as little as two percent, but over millions of bets the edge adds up to significant money. In games that involve skill, such as blackjack and video poker, the house makes its profit by imposing a commission on players known as the vig or rake.

Some casinos earn extra revenue by giving away free goods to regular patrons, known as comps. This can include everything from food and drinks to hotel rooms and show tickets. Casinos also earn revenue by tracking player activity through high-tech surveillance systems, including catwalks in the ceiling where security personnel can peer down through one-way glass at activities at tables and slot machines.

Historically, organized crime mobs controlled a number of casinos in the United States, particularly in Reno and Las Vegas. But as real estate investors and hotel chains became involved in the business, they were able to out-bid mob interests and eventually cut off the Mafia’s ties to casinos. Today, casinos are almost entirely legitimate businesses whose only connection to the Mafia is their names. But critics say casino revenue draws locals away from other forms of entertainment and that the economic costs of treating compulsive gamblers more than offset any positive economic impact of the casinos.