What Is a Casino?

A casino, or gambling house, is a building where games of chance are played. It may also contain entertainment elements such as restaurants, stage shows and dramatic scenery. In the United States, the term casino usually refers to a commercial establishment licensed by state or territorial gaming laws to offer various types of gambling. It can also refer to a place where those activities take place, such as an Indian reservation casino.

Gambling likely predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found at ancient archaeological sites [Source: Schwartz]. The modern casino evolved from these root forms through the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe and Italian aristocrats used private rooms known as ridotti to entertain guests and play games of chance. While casinos offer many luxuries to attract and reward customers, the vast majority of their profits are earned from games of chance.

Casinos have many security measures in place to protect their patrons and property, including physical security forces and specialized surveillance departments. Some casinos have catwalks over the gambling floor that allow surveillance personnel to look down on the tables and slot machines through one-way glass. Other casinos employ a variety of camera systems to monitor activity, and all gambling establishments must display their licenses publicly.

While the glamorous Las Vegas casinos and their flashy advertisements often dominate headlines, there are a wide variety of casinos in locations around the world. These include affluent cities with legal casinos, such as Monte Carlo; seaside resorts, such as Atlantic City; and Indian reservations in the United States. The casinos range from elegant to downright gaudy, but they all have the same goal of making money off of gamblers.