What Is a Casino?



A casino is a public place where a variety of games of chance can be played. It offers many luxuries, such as restaurants, free drinks, stage shows and dramatic scenery to help lure in gamblers. But despite the elaborate themes, musical shows and shopping centers, casinos would not exist without the billions of dollars in profits generated by the games themselves. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette and craps supply the vast majority of a casino’s revenues.

Casinos are most often found in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Chicago, though they are now spread throughout the United States. Several American states changed their antigambling laws in the 1980s and 1990s to permit new casinos, especially on Indian reservations that were not subject to state laws.

Although gambling may have existed in ancient times, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and even carved six-sided dice, the modern casino emerged only in the 16th century. A craze for gambling swept Europe at the time, and Italian aristocrats often held private parties in spaces called ridotti, where they could be free to gamble without worrying about the authorities.

Casinos must take a large number of security measures because of the enormous amounts of money that are handled within their facilities. Patrons and staff may be tempted to cheat or steal, either in collusion or independently, and most casinos employ extensive surveillance measures. For example, some have catwalks in the ceiling that allow surveillance personnel to look down, through one-way glass, on the tables and slot machines.