What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where people can gamble and play games of chance. While lighted fountains, stage shows and shopping centers might draw in the crowds, casinos would not exist without games of chance such as slot machines, blackjack, roulette and craps, which provide the billions of dollars in profits that they rake in every year.

Casinos also feature table games such as baccarat, pai gow poker, fan-tan and two-up. Many casinos also have a range of Asian games such as sic bo, a popular game in Europe during the 1990s and that became known to Americans through the movie Ocean’s 11.

Modern casinos usually combine a physical security force with a specialized surveillance department. The former patrols the floor and responds to calls for help and suspected or definite criminal activity, while the latter operates the casino’s closed circuit television system (CCTV), which is often nicknamed “the eye in the sky.” Casino security personnel are trained to recognize patterns in gambling behavior, so that statistical deviations stick out like a sore thumb.

Although gambling in some form probably predates recorded history, the idea of a single building where people can find a variety of ways to wager under one roof didn’t become popular until the 16th century. In Italy, where the gambling craze first took hold, nobles gathered at private clubs called ridotti to gamble and socialize. While these venues were technically illegal, the wealthy patrons rarely got bothered by legal authorities.