What Is a Casino?



A casino is a place where people can gamble and play games of chance. The most famous example is the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco, which has hosted royalty and aristocracy since its opening in 1863. More recently, the elegant spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany has also cultivated a reputation as one of the world’s finest casinos.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved knuckle bones from ancient archaeological sites [Source: Schwartz]. However, the modern casino as a gathering place for people to find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof did not develop until the 16th century, when gambling crazes swept Europe, leading Italian aristocrats to hold private parties called ridotti in which baccarat was a prominent game.

Despite the glamorous images associated with casinos, they are not without their problems. The presence of large amounts of money is always a temptation for patrons and staff to cheat or steal, whether in collusion or on their own. As a result, casinos invest a great deal of time, effort and money in security measures. Many have elaborate surveillance systems with cameras in the ceiling that can be turned around to focus on specific suspicious patrons at any given time, and computerized surveillance for table games where it is possible to alter a result.

Other casino activities include a wide selection of restaurants and bars, entertainment (often including stage shows and dramatic scenery) and hotel rooms. While the largest casinos are located in Las Vegas, there are a growing number of them throughout the United States and the world. In some cities, such as New Orleans and Chicago, the casino industry has become an integral part of the local economy. In others, the effect is mixed: while casino revenue brings in tourists who spend money in restaurants, hotels and shops, some studies indicate that compulsive gambling can drain a community’s coffers, offsetting any economic benefits.