From the flashy Las Vegas casinos to the shady pai gow parlors of New York City’s Chinatown, gamblers enjoy the thrill of rolling the dice and playing the cards. While lighted fountains, musical shows and lavish hotels draw the crowds, casinos are really all about gambling and the billions in profits they rake in each year.
Gambling has existed since prehistoric times, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found at ancient archaeological sites. But the modern casino, with a wide variety of games under one roof, did not develop until the 16th century, when a gaming craze swept Europe. During this period, European nobles would hold private parties at venues called ridotti where they could play a variety of games including blackjack, roulette and craps.
The modern casino relies heavily on technology to lure and keep customers. Sensors monitor all activities in a game room, from the shuffle of cards to the placement of bets. A computer records the results of every game, and statistical deviations are spotted as soon as they occur. These signals are transmitted wirelessly to casino security personnel who can alert the game supervisor immediately.
Casinos offer a variety of promotions to attract players, from free rooms and meals to tickets for shows. They also reward their most loyal patrons with comps, a system that gives them free goods and services like limo service and airline tickets based on how much they spend on gambling. While the mob controlled many of the early casinos, legalization of gambling and federal crackdowns on mafia involvement has allowed legitimate casino businesses to prosper. But critics argue that the net effect on a community is negative, because gambling money diverts spending from other entertainment and hurts property values in the area.