What Is a Casino?


A casino is an establishment offering gambling opportunities. These include slot machines, baccarat, blackjack, roulette, craps and other games of chance. Often, casinos also offer other forms of entertainment and luxuries. These amenities can include musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers. However, the vast majority of a casino’s revenue comes from its gambling operations. Casinos are a major source of income for cities and states and can attract tourists to an area.

The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it probably dates back as far as written history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in the most ancient archaeological sites [Source: Schwartz]. The casino as an institution for gamblers did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Wealthy Italian aristocrats would hold private parties in small clubs known as ridotti, where they could play a variety of games for money. Although technically illegal, the aristocrats were seldom bothered by authorities. The term casino was likely derived from these venues.

Today’s casinos are like indoor amusement parks, with elaborate hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and theme parks, but the vast majority of their revenues come from games of chance. Slot machines, baccarat, blackjack and other table games of chance provide the billions in profits that casino owners rake in annually. Craps and keno are other popular casino games. Some casinos also have poker rooms, where patrons compete against each other and the casino earns a profit through a percentage of each pot or an hourly fee called a “rake.”

Casino gambling began in Nevada in the 1940s, when state legislators realized that the huge numbers of tourists drawn by Las Vegas’s glamorous lights and attractions could be used to attract people from across the United States and around the world. In the 1980s, casinos began opening on American Indian reservations and in other states that were not subject to federal antigambling laws.

Many casinos rely on technology to monitor their games. In addition to video cameras, specialized computers can track the amount of money wagered on a game minute by minute and alert security personnel if any suspicious activity is detected. In addition, some casinos use “chip tracking” to ensure that bettors are depositing actual money, and some even have electronic monitoring systems in their roulette wheels to detect any statistical deviations from expected results.