What Is a Casino?

A casino is a facility for certain types of gambling. The modern casino is much like an indoor amusement park for adults, with musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and lavish hotels drawing in the crowds. But the billions in profits raked in every year by casinos are driven by games of chance, with black jack, roulette, craps and keno providing the bulk of the income.

Although gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, the casino as a place to find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof did not develop until the 16th century. Gambling crazes swept Europe at that time, and Italian aristocrats often held private parties in places called ridotti [Source: Schwartz].

Casinos are designed to ensure a house edge (the percentage of expected value that the casino will earn on any given game). The advantage is built into all casino games, from carved six-sided dice found in the most ancient archaeological sites to the sophisticated computer chips that determine payouts in modern slot machines. In addition to this basic structure, many casino games also have an element of skill, such as card counting in blackjack or edge sorting in baccarat. This skill, when used to an advantage, is known as card sharping and can be illegal.

The large amounts of money handled in a casino make it a tempting target for both patrons and employees who might cheat or steal, either in collusion or independently. To prevent this, casino security measures include surveillance cameras and a variety of other systems that help keep track of everything that happens inside the building.