A casino is a place that houses gambling activities. It can add all sorts of luxuries to help draw in customers, but it would not exist without the games of chance that make up most of the billions of dollars in profits raked in every year. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette and poker are among the games that provide the cash that drives casinos.
Gambling has been around almost as long as recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found at the earliest archaeological sites. But the idea of a place dedicated to gambling did not really develop until the 16th century, when a craze for it swept Europe. The Italian aristocracy formed private clubs called ridotti, where they could indulge in their favorite hobby without worrying about legal repercussions. From these early private venues, the modern casino evolved.
Today’s casinos are built to look like palaces and offer all the amenities of a five-star hotel, including free drinks, stage shows and spectacular scenery. But despite all the flash and glamour, there’s still a very dark side to the gambling industry. Studies indicate that compulsive gamblers generate a disproportionate amount of the industry’s profits. And the costs of treating problem gamblers can often offset any economic gains a casino might bring to a town.
While legitimate businessmen were initially reluctant to get involved in gambling establishments, gangsters with plenty of money from drug trafficking and other illegal rackets flocked to Reno and Las Vegas. They not only provided the money to build the casinos, but they took sole or partial ownership of them and tampered with games, changing odds and other factors to their advantage. Federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a gaming license at the slightest hint of mob involvement soon put an end to these practices.