What is a Casino?

A casino is a place where people can gamble by playing games of chance or skill, and it is one of the most popular forms of gambling around the world. Casinos offer a variety of services and features to attract and keep customers, such as free drinks, food, stage shows and dramatic scenery. But even with these luxuries, casinos would not exist without the billions of dollars that patrons put into their slot machines, blackjack, roulette and other games. A small advantage that a casino gets from these games, known as the house edge, is enough to allow it to pay out winnings and make a profit.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice being found in ancient archaeological sites. But the casino as a place to find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze spread throughout Europe. Its development coincided with a growing interest in betting and the introduction of new games like baccarat, chemin de fer, pai gow poker, American-style roulette, blackjack and video poker.

Although gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, it took a decade before it became available elsewhere in the United States. Until then, organized crime figures provided the funds for the casinos to operate, but were reluctant to give them the clean image that a legitimate business needs. They tended to take sole or partial ownership of the casinos and, more often than not, threatened casino employees with violence.

The mafia influence over the casinos weakened as legitimate businessmen with deep pockets took an interest in the industry. Large hotel chains and real estate investors, such as Donald Trump and the Hilton group, bought out the mobs and established themselves as casino operators. Federal crackdowns on the Mafia have kept the mob from having an active role in any casino since.

Today, most casinos focus their investments on the “high rollers” who spend a lot of money on their gambling. They are given special rooms and receive a great deal of personal attention. They are also required to be honest, or risk having their accounts closed. Unfortunately, something about gambling (and the presence of huge sums of money) seems to encourage some people to cheat or steal in order to win. That’s why security in casinos is a high priority. Security starts on the gaming floor, where dealers are trained to watch out for blatant cheating such as palming or marking cards. Pit bosses and table managers have a broader view of the casino and can spot other suspicious behavior. The casinos also invest in sophisticated surveillance equipment.