What Is a Casino?


A casino is a building or room in which gambling activities take place. While casinos often offer other entertainment (musical shows, shopping centers, dramatic scenery) to attract patrons, they are primarily places where people can gamble on games of chance or skill. Historically, casino games have been played with dice, cards and other objects, but modern technology has enabled them to be made much more complex and interesting. Many of these newer games involve the use of computer chips, microcircuitry, wires and sensors.

Gambling probably predates recorded history, with primitive protodice — cut knuckle bones and even carved six-sided dice — found in some of the world’s oldest archaeological sites. But the casino as a place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t appear until the 16th century. That’s when a gambling craze swept Europe, and Italian aristocrats gathered in private parties called ridotti to enjoy the excitement of card games, roulette and other popular pastimes. Although gambling was technically illegal at the time, ridotti were seldom bothered by authorities, and the popularity of the events soon spread to other countries.

The modern casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults, with dazzling lights, sexy stage shows and thousands of slot machines bringing in the money. But it wouldn’t exist without the billions of dollars in profits raked in every year by games of chance such as blackjack, poker, craps and roulette.

Casinos have long used a variety of methods to ensure that their patrons don’t cheat or steal. Some are as simple as having employees patrol the gaming floor to keep an eye on patrons to spot anything out of the ordinary. More sophisticated security measures include chip tracking, which allows casinos to monitor betting patterns minute by minute and alert managers to any anomaly; electronic monitoring of roulette wheels to discover any deviation from expected results; and video surveillance systems.

A casino’s reputation for fair play is critical to its success. To maintain a high level of integrity, most casinos have rules that require dealers to shuffle the cards and deal them in a manner consistent with the game’s rules. In addition, each table has a pit boss who oversees the operation of the table and whose job is to make sure that the rules are followed.

Another important aspect of casino security is comping — giving free food, beverages and hotel rooms to gamblers who spend a lot of money with the establishment. These incentives are usually based on the amount of time and money gamblers spend at the tables or slot machines. Casinos also offer a wide variety of other gifts to lure in big gamblers, including limo service and airline tickets. While most people gamble for fun, some people develop serious addictions that cost casinos millions of dollars in lost productivity and treatment costs. Compulsive gambling is a major drain on the economy and society, but it remains a profitable business for casino owners.