A casino is an establishment where people can gamble and play games of chance. They may also offer entertainment and food. Some casinos are combined with hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers. Others are stand-alone. In the United States, about 51 million people visited a casino in 2002, according to the American Gaming Association. The precise number of visitors worldwide is unknown.
Although gambling probably predates recorded history, the modern casino is a relatively recent invention. It probably originated in the 16th century, during a gambling craze that was particularly popular among European aristocrats. These aristocrats would meet in private clubs, called ridotti, to gamble and socialize.
Gambling is usually done by placing chips on the table that represent monetary value. The casino then keeps track of the total amount of money wagered, and if necessary, withdraws that money from the patron’s account. The house always has a mathematical advantage in games of chance, so the casino is virtually guaranteed to make a profit.
In addition to accepting bets, the casino offers free food and drinks to attract patrons and keep them on the premises. Casinos use chips instead of real currency because it is less likely that the patron will be concerned about keeping track of his or her winnings. The chips make it easier for the casino to monitor the total amount of money wagered and lost.
Because of gambling’s seamy reputation, many legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in casinos. This left the way open for organized crime figures to inject capital into Las Vegas and Reno. The mob pumped billions into these casinos and became personally involved, often taking sole or partial ownership of them.