Casinos are gambling establishments which offer a wide variety of games that have some element of skill. They may also offer a wide selection of food, drinks and other amenities to attract patrons. While the flashy lights, stage shows and expensive hotel rooms that make casinos famous help to draw customers in, the gambling games themselves are the economic engine that drives them. Slot machines, craps, blackjack, roulette, poker and other games are responsible for the billions of dollars in profits raked in by American casinos each year.

In general, the house has a mathematical advantage over players at any game. This can be expressed in terms of expected value (or expectancy), a measure which is uniformly negative for the player, or in more technical terms as the house edge. In some games, the house edge is much higher than in others. Casinos can limit their exposure to this disadvantage by offering special inducements to big bettors. These may include free spectacular entertainment, free or reduced-fare transportation and luxurious living quarters.

Despite these attractions, the casino industry faces many challenges. Many critics contend that casinos shift spending from other forms of entertainment and that the cost of treating problem gamblers and the loss in productivity caused by compulsive gambling offset any economic benefits. The industry also faces increasing competition from Internet casinos and other new technologies that offer many of the same gaming activities at a lower cost. Nevertheless, casinos continue to grow. In 2008, 24% of Americans reported having visited a casino in the previous year.