A casino, or gambling house, is an establishment where people can play games of chance and win money. Casinos are often combined with hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions. There are several types of games played in casinos, including roulette, blackjack, and poker. Casinos also feature entertainment, such as comedy shows and concerts.
The precise origin of gambling is not known, but it is clear that some form of it predates recorded history. The earliest known games include primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice [Source: Schwartz]. The modern concept of a casino grew in popularity during the 16th century, as Italian aristocrats would entertain in private places called ridotti. Although these were technically illegal, they would rarely be bothered by authorities.
Modern casinos make their money through the built in statistical advantage of each game they offer, which is known as the vig or rake. This may be only a few percent per bet, but over the millions of bets placed by customers, this can add up to a significant amount of revenue. Casinos are able to spend this money on elaborate construction projects, such as fountains, towers and replicas of famous landmarks.
In the United States, casinos are most popular in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. They are also found on American Indian reservations, where state anti-gambling laws do not apply. Due to the large amounts of money that are handled within a casino, there is a strong temptation for players and staff to cheat or steal, either in collusion or independently. This is why casinos spend so much time and effort on security.