A casino (also called a gaming house or a gambling hall) is an establishment where people can play a variety of games of chance for money or other prizes. Some casinos also offer restaurants, free drinks, and stage shows. The term casino may also refer to an establishment that offers these activities on a cruise ship or in a hotel.

The elegant spa town of Baden-Baden became a playground for Europe’s royalty and aristocracy 150 years ago, when it was outfitted with a casino. Nowadays, it’s one of the world’s most lavish places to gamble. Its red-and-gold poker rooms and plethora of blackjack and roulette tables are so lavish that actress Marlene Dietrich once proclaimed it “the most beautiful casino in the world.” Elaborate surveillance systems give security workers a high-tech eye-in-the-sky, with cameras that can be focused on suspicious patrons by staff members in a separate room filled with banks of security monitors.

Most modern casinos have a loyalty program that rewards frequent players with comps (free goods or services) based on how much they spend. These programs are modeled after airline frequent-flyer programs and give players the option to exchange points for free or discounted food, drink, hotel rooms, or show tickets. In addition, many casinos use card readers to track player activity and generate reports for management.

Despite the allure of freebies, there’s one certainty when it comes to gambling: The house always wins. Every game gives the casino a built-in advantage, which it uses to offset its operating expenses and generate a profit.