What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where gamblers can play games of chance for money. Some casinos add a wide variety of luxuries to attract customers, including stage shows, restaurants and free drinks. Others are more limited in their offerings but still allow patrons to place wagers on gambling activities.

Gambling almost certainly predates written history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice appearing in the earliest archaeological sites. But the idea of a centralized venue where patrons could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t take hold until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe and Italian aristocrats gathered in rooms called ridotti to enjoy their favorite pastime. [Source: Schwartz]

The modern casino typically offers a variety of table and slot machines, but it also often features non-gambling entertainment and even hotels. The top-ranked casinos are often sprawling, opulent and filled with rich decor.

Because large sums of money are handled within a casino, both patrons and staff may be tempted to cheat or steal in some way, either on their own or in collusion with other people. Most casinos spend a lot of time and money on security to prevent this from happening.

Elaborate surveillance systems enable casinos to watch every table, window and doorway at once. Some have “chip tracking” technology that allows the casino to oversee betting chips’ exact movements minute by minute, while roulette wheels are regularly electronically monitored for statistical deviations. In addition, the high-tech eye-in-the-sky cameras can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons by security workers in a room filled with banks of monitors.