A casino is a gambling establishment, a place where people can gamble and win money. Casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, restaurants and retail shopping or entertainment venues. Some casinos offer only table games, while others have a wide range of popular slot machines and other electronic gaming devices. Some casinos are operated by government-owned businesses, while others are owned and run by private companies.
The concept of a casino as a central gathering place for gambling probably developed in the 16th century, during a period when a gambling craze swept Europe. Its origin is unclear, but it may have been inspired by the Ridotto, a social club where Italian aristocrats would meet for social occasions. [Source: Schwartz]
Casinos are generally considered to be an industry that is based on chance, although some games do have elements of skill. The house always has a mathematical advantage over the players, known as the house edge. This advantage can vary from game to game, but it is usually less than two percent. Casinos make money by charging bettors a commission on their wins, called the vig or rake. The house edge is a key reason why many casino patrons do not walk away from the tables or slot machines with their original balance.
In order to prevent cheating and theft, most casinos have security measures in place. These typically include a combination of physical security guards and a specialized security department that operates closed circuit television (CCTV) systems. Some casinos also have catwalks in the ceiling that allow surveillance personnel to watch activities on the casino floor directly.
Due to the large amount of cash handled in a casino, both patrons and employees may be tempted to steal or cheat. To counteract this, most casinos have security departments to monitor patrons and employees. These departments are often trained to recognize telltale signs of dishonesty, such as body language or the use of a credit card. Casinos also have security cameras in high-traffic areas, such as the entrance and exit doors.
Because the casino industry is so lucrative, it is also a favorite target for organized crime. In the past, mobsters controlled many casino operations in the United States. However, as real estate investors and hotel chains got into the business, mob involvement decreased. Today, most casinos are owned by private companies and operate without any mob interference.