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What Is a Casino?

A casino is an establishment where people can play a variety of games of chance for money. The gambling industry is huge, and casinos generate billions of dollars in profits every year. They may offer dining, musical shows, shopping and hotels, but their primary purpose is gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno and poker are all popular casino games.

The word casino derives from a Latin word for “house,” and early casinos were often small private clubs where members could gamble on various games of chance. The casino craze of the 16th century saw many new places spring up in Europe as well as in America, and casinos developed as a place where people could find all types of gambling under one roof.

Casinos are a major source of employment for millions of Americans, and many of them are open 24 hours a day. But casinos can also be a drain on local economies. Studies have shown that problem gamblers are a large part of the revenue base for casinos, and their addictions deprive other patrons of entertainment options; plus, the cost of treating gamblers and the loss of productivity by addicts can offset any economic benefits that a casino may bring.

In the old days, Mafia gangsters provided much of the money that made Las Vegas and Reno successful, but they were not happy with the seamy image associated with casinos. Legitimate businessmen with deep pockets stepped in to take sole or partial ownership of casinos, and mob involvement faded. Today’s casinos employ technology to improve security and monitor the games. For example, betting chips have built-in microcircuitry that enables casinos to oversee exactly how much is wagered on each game minute by minute, and electronic systems are used to scan roulette wheels to discover any statistical deviations from expected results.