Whether you’re into the roar of the slots, the thrill of the roulette wheel, the sultry ambience of a poker room or throwing dice at a craps table, casinos are where gambling is elevated to an art form. Decked out in opulent furnishings, overflowing bars and other indulgent amenities, these temples of temptation provide the ultimate setting to satisfy a gambler’s craving for fortune.
While entertainment, shopping and lavish hotels help draw people to a casino, the billions of dollars in profits for its owners mostly come from games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps and other games of chance are the lifeblood that pumps the billions into casino profits every year.
Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice found in some of the oldest archaeological sites. But the casino as a place where players could find many different gambling games under one roof did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. At that time, rich Italian aristocrats often gathered in private places called ridotti to play various casino games and socialize.
Throughout the world casinos have developed their own games and variations, catering to local tastes. In France, for example, roulette is the principal game, with casinos reducing their house advantage to less than 1 percent to entice large bettors. In America, on the other hand, casino profits mainly stem from the rapid play of high-speed electronic slot machines and video poker. Most American casinos demand a maximum house advantage of about 1.4 percent.
The casino industry is regulated in most countries. Some states require that casinos be licensed, and some even limit the number of casinos. Some countries also limit the type of games that can be played in a casino, and prohibit or restrict other types of gambling, such as sports betting. In some cases, casinos are run by governments.
In the United States, casinos are a major source of tax revenue and have helped revitalize downtown areas in some cities. Some cities are known for their casinos, including Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City.
Casino security is a vital part of the operation. Casinos spend a lot of money on cameras, electronic surveillance and other equipment to keep their patrons safe. The routines and patterns of casino games also make it easy for security staff to spot suspicious activity, such as a player who is acting oddly or making unusual bets.
Although some legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in casinos, the mob had no problem with it, seeing a potential opportunity to launder cash from drug dealing and other illegal activities. Mafia leaders funded many of the early Las Vegas and Reno casinos, became involved in them personally, and took full or partial ownership of some. They also manipulated the outcomes of games and lobbied politicians for better laws to protect their interests. As a result, the casino industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world.