A casino is a place where people can play games of chance and, in some cases, with a little skill. The house always has an advantage, which can be very small — less than two percent of the bets made — but it adds up over time to give casinos enough money to build fountains, towers and replicas of famous landmarks. Casinos earn their profit by charging for gambling machines and taking a percentage of each bet, or rake, in poker and other table games.
Gambling has almost certainly predated recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in ancient archaeological sites. But the casino as a place where patrons could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century, during a period of European gambling mania. Wealthy Italian aristocrats often held private parties in places called ridotti, where they could indulge their addiction without worry of prosecution.
With large amounts of cash in hand, patrons and staff may be tempted to cheat or steal, in collusion or independently; as such, most casinos have security measures to prevent these activities. These can range from simple security cameras to elaborate eye-in-the-sky systems that can watch every table, window and doorway at once.
Because a casino is essentially a business, professional gamblers must report their earnings and losses to the IRS on a Schedule C, just like any other small business owner. This means that some gamblers must pay taxes on their winnings, while others must pay taxes on their losses.