A casino is a place where people gamble. Some games have a skill element, and players with sufficient skills can eliminate the inherent long-term disadvantage of the house, which is known as the “house edge.” Casinos also earn money by charging players a commission on their winnings, which is called vigorish.
A casino can be a place where people socialize as well as play games. Many casinos have restaurants, bars and entertainment venues such as concert halls or theaters. They can also have gambling floors where people can play the traditional casino games of dice, poker and slot machines. Some casinos have a theme such as sports or magic.
Casinos are licensed by state gaming boards to operate games of chance. They must meet minimum standards for security, ventilation and design. They are usually located in large buildings that can accommodate thousands of visitors at one time. In the United States, most casinos are operated by private companies. Some are owned by Native American tribes. Others are run by government-owned corporations or charitable organizations.
Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knucklebones) and carved six-sided dice found at the earliest archaeological sites. However, the modern casino as a central hub where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t appear until the 16th century, with a gambling craze sweeping Europe. Rich Italian aristocrats would gather in private clubs for gambling parties, which were officially illegal but rarely bothered by authorities. These venues were known as ridotti [Source: Schwartz].
The Cosmopolitan, which opened in 2010, is a glittering example of casino luxury. Its 3,000 rooms have outdoor balconies, and half of them have insane views of the Bellagio fountains. Its interiors, designed by the Rockwell Group, are sexy and uninhibited, with columns that project live video and 21 miles of crystal beads in The Chandelier bar. It’s the favored stomping ground of tuxedo-clad millionaires who own yachts and chill in private salons for high rollers. James Bond fans recognize it from the movies.
Most casinos have strict rules about smoking and drinking, and most don’t allow minors to enter the gambling areas. Many have surveillance systems with cameras that watch the gambling floor and track the movement of players’ chips. Some have catwalks above the casino floor that let surveillance personnel look down on table games through one-way glass.
Something about gambling seems to encourage people to cheat, steal and scam their way into a jackpot. That’s why casinos spend a lot of time and money on security.
In the past, many casinos were run by mafia families. But as real estate investors and hotel chains became more wealthy, they bought out the mobsters. Mob influence still exists in some casinos, but federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a license at the slightest hint of mob involvement means that legitimate businesses tend to keep the mob at arm’s length. This helps to ensure the integrity of the games and the security of patrons.