A casino, also known as a gambling house or a gaming room, is an establishment for certain types of gambling. Modern casinos often offer a wide variety of games, such as poker, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and video slot machines. Some casinos also include restaurants and entertainment venues. Casinos can be found in cities around the world, and many are combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shops, and other tourist attractions.
A number of countries have laws against gambling, but most allow casinos to operate in some form. In the United States, casinos are licensed and regulated by state governments. The first American casino was built in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1978, and during the 1980s, casinos began appearing on Indian reservations, which are not subject to state antigambling laws. In the 1990s, many states amended their laws to permit casinos, and the industry has since expanded to almost every country.
Although gambling in some form may have predated the earliest human civilizations, the first modern casinos did not appear until the 16th century as part of a general craze for gambling. During this time, Italian aristocrats would hold private parties in rooms called ridotti, where they could play various gambling games while enjoying food and drinks. Although technically illegal, the aristocrats rarely bothered the police, as the gambling was considered a harmless pastime.
As the industry developed, casinos began to focus more on providing a wholesome experience for all patrons. In addition to the usual array of games, casinos began offering floor shows, free drinks, and all-you-can-eat buffets. Many of these features are now standard in all casinos. Casinos are also pushing themselves as family destinations, and their venues are becoming increasingly luxurious.
Casinos make money by taking a percentage of all bets placed, sometimes referred to as the “house edge.” In games that involve skill, such as blackjack and video poker, the house edge is usually small, less than two percent. In games of pure chance, such as roulette and slot machines, the house edge is a little larger, but still relatively small.
As the popularity of casino gambling grew in the 1950s, owners sought funds to expand and renovate. Organized crime figures were willing to invest in a business with a seamy image, and mafia money flowed into Reno and Las Vegas. Mobster involvement in casinos, however, eventually became more than just financial. Mafia members took sole or partial ownership of many casinos, and they even rigged some games. Today, casinos use technology to control security and monitor games as well as to help players avoid cheating. For example, chip tracking systems enable casinos to monitor bets made minute by minute and quickly discover any statistical deviation from expected results. The use of such technology is an example of a more general trend toward the automation of many casinos’ operations. Many companies now offer casino-management software that can automate many of a casino’s functions. This can increase profits by reducing staffing requirements and eliminating the need for manual vigilance.