The House Edge at the Casino


Whether it’s the glittering strip of Las Vegas, an illegal pai gow parlor in New York’s Chinatown or the refined elegance of Baden-Baden, casinos offer a chance to test your luck and perhaps leave with a little more money than you came with. But before you set foot in a casino, know what you’re getting into. And before you start accumulating points on your player rewards card or betting more than your bankroll, remember that there is one certainty in gambling: the house always wins.

The simplest way to understand the house edge is that it’s the average gross profit that the casino expects to make for every $100 played. It’s not something that’s left to chance, and it can be calculated in advance by computer programs or mathematicians who specialize in the field.

In games that require skill, such as blackjack and poker, the house edge can be minimized with basic strategy, but in other games like roulette and craps, it’s nearly impossible to reduce it. The only way to beat the house is to change the rules of the game.

Some critics argue that casinos drain local economies by pulling people away from other forms of entertainment, and that the cost of treating problem gamblers and the loss of productivity due to compulsive gambling more than offset any economic benefits they bring. But others point out that a casino can increase employment opportunities by recruiting higher-skilled workers, and that local unemployment rates will decrease as skilled labor moves to areas near casinos.

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