A casino is a gambling establishment that offers patrons the opportunity to place wagers on games of chance. The modern casino adds a host of extra amenities to help attract customers, such as restaurants, free drinks and spectacular stage shows, but even without them, casinos would be nothing more than places where people gather to bet money on games of chance. This article takes a look at how casinos make their money, what kinds of gambling they offer and how they stay safe.
Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in archaeological sites [source: Schwartz]. However, the casino as a collection of gaming rooms did not emerge until the 16th century, during a period of widespread European gambling mania. During this time, wealthy Italian aristocrats gathered in clubs called ridotti to play games of chance and enjoy the company of others, often in spite of the fact that gambling was technically illegal.
Casinos are often a target of organized crime, and mobsters supplied the initial funds to launch the first few Nevada gaming centers. As the industry grew, mobster owners became more involved with their operations and sought to control them through personal influence and violence against casino employees. Legitimate businessmen, who could face government scrutiny at the slightest hint of mafia involvement, were reluctant to get involved with casinos, and the mobsters gradually lost their power over the industry.
Today, the largest concentration of casinos is in Las Vegas, Nevada. Other major casino markets include Atlantic City, New Jersey and the Chicago area. In the United States, 40 states now allow some form of legalized casino gambling.