What Is a Casino?

A casino, also called a gaming house or gambling establishment, is an institution where people can gamble. Casinos are usually located in or near hotels, restaurants and retail shopping centers and offer a variety of games, including slot machines, blackjack, roulette, poker, craps and baccarat. Some casinos specialize in one or more types of games. Some are themed to specific geographic locations or historical periods. Others are stand-alone facilities.

While some forms of gambling predate recorded history, the casino as an institution offering a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t appear until the 16th century during a period of intense gambling mania. During that time, wealthy Italian aristocrats would hold private parties at their homes known as ridotti to gamble in places where the police wouldn’t bother them [Source: Schwartz].

Modern casinos often look like indoor amusement parks for adults, with musical shows, lighted fountains and replicas of famous landmarks attracting visitors. But they wouldn’t exist without the billions of dollars raked in from games of chance, such as slots, blackjack, roulette and baccarat.

The games themselves are mostly simple, but players must understand how the odds of winning are calculated to make good decisions and minimize their losses. There’s an element of skill to some games, such as video poker and baccarat, but even these require knowledge of the rules and strategies of the game. Casinos use sophisticated surveillance systems to monitor patrons and the games. Cameras on the ceiling provide a high-tech eye-in-the-sky that can be adjusted to focus on certain areas by security personnel. Computers monitor the results of each spin of a roulette wheel or bet placed on a hand of blackjack.