A casino is a place where a variety of games of chance are played and gambling is the primary activity. While musical shows, lighted fountains, restaurants and lavish hotels help draw patrons to casinos, they could not operate without the billions in profits raked in by the gambling machines and other games. This article looks at the history of casinos, popular casino games and how they are played, and some of the dark side of the business.
Though gambling predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in archaeological sites, the modern casino emerged in the 16th century during a European gambling craze. The word casino comes from the Italian ridotti, small clubhouses where members met for social occasions. Gambling was often illegal, but the lack of large public venues and fear of legal prosecution pushed people into these private clubs, where they could gamble and be left alone.
Casinos spend a lot of money and effort on security. The most obvious measure is a network of cameras throughout the building. However, casinos also employ personnel who watch over the tables and slots with a more focused eye, looking for blatant cheating such as palming or marking cards or dice. In addition, some casinos have catwalks in the ceiling to allow staff to look down on patrons through one-way glass.
In 2005, Harrah’s Entertainment reported that the typical casino gambler is a forty-six-year-old female from a household with above-average income. This gender preference for electronic gaming has helped to drive casino revenues. But even the high rollers generate only a fraction of total casino profit, so the casino must offer them extravagant inducements such as free spectacular entertainment, discounted transportation and hotel rooms, reduced-fare buffets and drinks while gambling, and other perks.