What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where people gamble in games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, poker, craps and other games of chance rake in billions of dollars for casinos every year. A casino is a complex entertainment venue with restaurants, bars and hotel rooms. Its elaborate themes, dazzling lights, and musical shows provide a lot of entertainment and profits for the owners. But even with the glitz and glamour of today’s casinos, they wouldn’t exist without the games of chance.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in ancient archaeological sites. But the modern casino as a place to find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t appear until the 16th century, during a gambling craze in Europe. Italian aristocrats would hold private parties at “ridotti” where they could play cards and other games of chance, even though the activities were technically illegal.

In the United States, casinos first appeared in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Iowa, where riverboats could legally offer gambling. By the 1980s, corporations and wealthy investors were buying up properties to build casinos. Some were even located on Native American reservations, where they didn’t have to comply with state antigambling laws.

While casinos rely on games of chance to make money, they also use a range of tricks to attract and keep patrons. For example, the machines are designed to appeal to a person’s sense of sight and sound — bells, whistles and the cling clang of coins dropping during payouts add to the sensory experience. In addition, dealers watch patrons closely for blatant cheating such as palming and marking cards. And each table has a manager or pit boss watching for betting patterns that might signal collusion between players.