A casino, also known as a gambling house or a gaming establishment, is a place where people can play games of chance. Casinos often have elaborate facilities, with stage shows, dramatic scenery, restaurants and shopping areas. They also offer a variety of games, such as blackjack, roulette, poker, baccarat, craps and keno. These games make up the bulk of the billions in profits that casinos rake in every year.
While casinos do rely on musical shows, lighted fountains and elaborate themes to draw in gamblers, they would not exist without the games of chance that they host. Slot machines, keno and video poker bring in the most money, with their high-volume play at sums ranging from five cents to a dollar or more. Craps, roulette and baccarat are other popular casino games, which require skill as well as chance to win.
Casino security starts on the casino floor, where dealers keep a close eye on patrons to make sure they don’t cheat by palming, marking or switching cards or dice. Dealers are aided by pit bosses and other supervisors who can easily spot any suspicious activity. The tables themselves are also closely monitored, with each person’s betting patterns being compared to the expected results of the game. Computer systems help monitor and supervise the results of all games, allowing supervisors to quickly notice any statistical deviation.
Even with this virtual assurance of gross profit, casinos still need to persuade people to gamble, and they spend a lot of time, effort and money on security. In fact, some casinos have dedicated entire floors to high-stakes gambling, with rooms separated from the main floor where the stakes can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. These rooms cater to wealthy patrons who are willing to gamble large amounts of money, and they usually receive extravagant inducements in the form of free spectacular entertainment, limousine transportation and elegant living quarters.
Gambling probably predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found at ancient archaeological sites. However, the modern casino as a venue where patrons could find a wide range of ways to gamble under one roof did not appear until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Italian aristocrats especially enjoyed private parties called ridotti, where they played for cash and prizes and socialized with friends.
In the United States, state governments regulate casino gambling. Most of the first casinos were built in Nevada, and their popularity inspired other states to legalize gambling. While legitimate businessmen were wary of getting involved in such a seamy business, mafia figures who were already heavily invested in gambling had no such qualms, and they pumped millions into Reno and Las Vegas. Some mobsters even took sole or partial ownership of the casinos, and they exerted considerable influence over their operation through their control of loan sharks and extortion. This is why many states have enacted anti-mob laws. Today, casino security is a major concern for most businesses that include gambling as part of their operations.