A casino is a gambling establishment that hosts different types of games of chance. The term casino may also refer to a group of casinos or a specific casino building. Often, these buildings are designed with a theme and they may be located near hotels, restaurants, retail stores, cruise ships or other tourist attractions.
Gambling likely predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice found at archaeological sites. The modern casino, however, is a relatively recent invention. It didn’t take hold until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe and wealthy Italian nobles began holding private parties at venues called ridotti [Source: Schwartz].
While some people gamble for fun, most do it to win money. Casinos make their profits from the vig, or the house edge on bets placed by patrons. This advantage can be as low as two percent, but it adds up over millions of bets. The revenue generated by this vig allows casinos to afford lavish decorations and architectural features such as fountains, towers and replicas of famous landmarks.
In the past, organized crime gangsters provided much of the capital needed to open casinos. But legitimate businessmen had deeper pockets and saw that they could make a lot of money by running them, too. With federal crackdowns on mafia activities and the threat of losing a casino license at even the hint of mob involvement, legitimate businessmen soon bought out the mob and ran casinos independently.