A casino is a public place where games of chance are played and gambling is the primary activity. Casinos typically add luxuries to attract customers, such as restaurants, free drinks, stage shows and dramatic scenery. However, less lavish places that house gambling activities could also be called casinos.
The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it is generally believed to have existed in almost every society throughout history. People gamble because they enjoy the excitement of risk and the possibility of winning money. Most games have a mathematical expectation of losing, giving the house an advantage over players that is uniformly negative from one game to the next.
Casinos have a reputation for being glamorous and exciting, but they are also notorious for their seamy association with organized crime. Mafia figures had plenty of cash to invest in Reno and Las Vegas, and they were not averse to using their influence to curry favor with casino owners. They offered protection, a share of profits and even sole or partial ownership of some casinos.
Because of the large amounts of currency handled within a casino, there is always the danger that patrons or staff will attempt to cheat or steal. To prevent this, casinos employ a variety of security measures. Dealers have an eye for blatant cheating, such as palming or marking cards, and table managers and pit bosses keep track of betting patterns that might indicate collusion between players.