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What Is a Casino?

A casino is a place where people gamble and play games of chance. Its architectural style is often grand, with fountains, giant pyramids, towers and replicas of famous landmarks. Casinos earn money by charging a commission on each bet placed by patrons, which is called the house edge. The amount of the house edge varies by game, but it can be less than two percent. Casinos also take a portion of each game’s winnings, which is known as the rake.

Gambling, in one form or another, almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice among the earliest archaeological finds. But the casino as a place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t emerge until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe and Italian aristocrats held parties in places called ridotti [Source: Schwartz].

The modern casino relies heavily on technology. Video cameras monitor the game rooms; chips with built-in microcircuitry enable casinos to oversee betting amounts minute-by-minute, warning them of any anomaly; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover quickly any statistical deviations from their expected results. Casinos also use computers to track gambling patterns and comp players with free slot plays, food, drinks and shows.

Although the Mob once controlled many of the world’s casino operations, real estate investors and hotel chains have largely replaced them, in part because federal anti-mob laws make it risky to associate a casino with organized crime. However, critics argue that the overall net effect of a casino on a community is negative, because it shifts spending from other forms of entertainment and the cost of treating gambling addiction offsets any economic benefits.