What Is a Casino?


A casino is a place for people to gamble. It can include slot machines, table games, and other gambling activities. While some casinos are standalone buildings, others are integrated into hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions. Modern casino gambling is a multibillion dollar industry, with the majority of the profits generated by games of chance. While lighted fountains, musical shows, shopping centers and hotel towers can help attract customers, it is the billions of dollars raked in by casino games like blackjack, roulette, craps and keno that drive the business.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found at archaeological sites. However, the idea of a dedicated place for people to gamble under one roof did not develop until the 16th century when a gambling craze swept Europe. Italian aristocrats would hold private parties in places known as ridotti, where they could enjoy a variety of games of chance. While technically illegal, the owners of these clubs were not bothered by authorities and ridotti grew in popularity. As the gaming craze spread, European countries changed their laws and allowed more casinos to open.

In the United States, the first legal casinos opened in Nevada during the 1950s. While legal, these establishments were still considered “vice” businesses and the mafia pumped cash into the growing industry. Mob money gave casinos a veneer of legitimacy and allowed organized crime figures to become involved with the business, often taking sole or partial ownership and directly overseeing operations.

Many casinos are designed with very specific goals in mind. They must keep patrons happy and make them feel that they are getting a unique experience. To that end, they often use lavish decor and carefully selected lighting to create an upscale appearance. Casinos try to minimize patrons’ awareness of the passage of time and provide them with plenty of free food and drink.

Casinos make their money by charging a small percentage of each game’s bet to players, which is called the house edge. While this advantage can be lower than two percent, it adds up over the millions of bets placed each year. This revenue is used to pay for the casinos’ building expenses and the salaries of their employees.

Casinos employ a wide variety of security measures to keep their patrons safe and protect their assets. These security measures start on the floor of the casino, where casino employees keep an eye on the games and the patrons. Dealers are heavily trained to spot blatant cheating techniques, such as palming or marking cards or dice. Table managers and pit bosses have a broader view of the games and can also spot patterns of behavior that indicate cheating. Casinos also use video surveillance to monitor their premises and have catwalks in the ceiling that allow personnel to look down through one-way glass at the games below. Some casinos have even added closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in their elevators.