A casino is a gambling establishment where patrons wager money on games of chance. Games like slots, black jack, roulette and craps generate billions of dollars in profit for casinos annually. Casinos are also known for providing entertainment such as floor shows and top-notch hotels.
The idea of a place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof first developed in the 16th century, during a gambling craze that spread across Europe. Italian aristocrats often held social occasions in private clubs called ridotti, where they would play games such as astragali (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice. Gambling was technically illegal, but the clubs were so popular that authorities rarely bothered them.
Modern casinos are often a feast for the eyes, filled with elaborate fountains, towers and replicas of famous landmarks. Some casinos even offer a little bit of pampering by offering gourmet restaurants, spas and luxury hotels.
But despite all this surface decadence, casinos are essentially businesses that earn their profits by taking advantage of the innate irrationality and fear of loss that drive human behavior. Every casino game has a built in statistical advantage for the house, which can be very small but over millions of bets adds up. This edge is referred to as the house edge or vig.
Something about the atmosphere of gambling encourages people to cheat, steal and scam their way into a jackpot. This is why casinos spend a huge amount of time and money on security. They employ a large number of employees to watch the floors and the patrons, and high-tech eye-in-the-sky surveillance systems allow them to monitor each table, window and doorway.