A casino is an establishment for certain types of gambling. Some casinos specialize in particular games, such as poker, blackjack or roulette; others offer a variety of games, including slot machines and other electronic games. Many casinos also offer food, drinks and entertainment. Casinos are often combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shopping or cruise ships.
The precise origin of gambling is unclear, but it is believed that some form of it existed in almost all ancient societies. The ancient Mesopotamian city of Ninawa was known for a type of lottery, and ancient Greeks and Romans both practiced a form of it. By the time of the Renaissance, gambling was widespread throughout Europe, and it helped fuel the expansion of the European empires. In the United States, the first modern casino was built in Las Vegas in 1899, and it soon became the model for other gambling centers.
Modern casino businesses are often focused on providing perks designed to encourage and reward gamblers. These include free items such as hotel rooms and show tickets, discounted meals and even airfare for players, and are known as comps. The casino industry is particularly competitive, with Las Vegas, Nevada holding the top position for gambling revenue worldwide.
Most casinos use a variety of security measures to prevent cheating and theft by patrons and employees. These may include physical security forces that patrol the casino floor and specialized surveillance departments that operate closed circuit television systems, sometimes referred to as an “eye in the sky.” Some casinos use a combination of these measures.
In addition to the obvious physical security, casinos employ a wide range of electronic surveillance and other technology to detect cheating and theft by patrons and workers. For example, roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviation from expected results; betting chips have microcircuitry that interacts with the game’s computer system to ensure that bets are placed and paid as they should be; and video cameras are used for surveillance in table games, as well as in high-stakes cardrooms where players may be influenced by outsiders.
The large amounts of money handled by a casino make it a prime target for thieves, both insiders and outsiders. Mobster money flowed steadily into Reno and Las Vegas during the early part of the 20th century, and organized crime leaders took sole or partial ownership of many casinos, managing them personally. These mobsters sought to capitalize on the popularity of Nevada casinos and to gain influence over other gambling operations throughout the United States. Today, most casinos use a combination of physical security and sophisticated surveillance technology to deter crime. They have generally succeeded in reducing the incidence of both insider and outsider theft. Nonetheless, some casinos have been subject to scandals and even violence. Some of these scandals have been traced to gangsters who have been involved in drug dealing and other illegal activities. Some have even been the subject of legal action.