What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where people can play games of chance and where gambling is the primary activity. It may add a number of luxurious extras like restaurants, free drinks and stage shows to make it more attractive to visitors but even less lavish places that house gambling activities are technically casinos as well.

Gambling in all its forms has been part of human culture for millennia. Archaeologists have discovered wooden blocks used in games of chance as early as 2300 BC and evidence of playing cards appeared in Europe around 800 AD.

Casinos are able to generate huge amounts of money because they give players an expected return on their bets. However, something about gambling—perhaps the presence of large sums of money or the fact that it often involves a group of people—seems to inspire people to cheat, steal or otherwise find illegitimate ways to win. This is why casinos spend so much time, effort and money on security.

In the past, organized crime figures ran many casinos. Mafia mobs supplied the bankroll and supervised operations, but legitimate businessmen such as real estate investors and hotel chains soon realized they could make even more money with casinos without mobsters involved. Federal crackdowns on mob influence and the risk of losing a license at the slightest hint of mob involvement now keep legitimate operators away from mafia-controlled casinos.

Some states are known for their casinos, particularly Nevada and Las Vegas. However, there are many other casinos across the country, including Iowa’s riverboat casinos, two Indian casinos and America’s first urban land-based casino in New Orleans. In addition to casinos, most states also have pari-mutuel racetracks, keno and bingo.