What Is a Casino?

A casino is an establishment for certain types of gambling. Most casinos are built near or combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shops and other entertainment facilities. The term casino may also refer to an establishment dedicated to non-gambling activities, such as a theater or concert hall.

In Europe, casinos were first established in the 16th century, when a craze for gambling spread across the continent and Italian aristocrats created small clubhouses called ridotti to indulge in their new passion [Source: Schwartz]. Although gambling has been around forever in some form or another — primitive protodice made from cut knuckle bones and carved six-sided dice can be found in archaeological digs — the idea of a central venue for all forms of gambling did not take off until the late 1940s.

Modern casinos are often huge resorts that feature a wide range of gaming options along with shopping, shows, restaurants and other amenities. They are often designed to replicate famous locations or landmarks and have elaborate themes. Despite the trappings of luxury, casinos would not exist without the millions of bets placed on games of chance. Every game has a built in advantage for the casino that, when multiplied by the billions of bets, generates enough profit to support the hotels, fountains and replicas of famous structures that define the casino experience.

The actual money used to gamble in a casino is called chips. The casino converts real money into chips to make it harder for gamblers to track how much they are spending and to spot cheating. Casinos also use chips to reduce the risk of theft and fraud, because they can easily replace lost or stolen chips.