A casino is a building where games of chance are played and gambled on. The modern casino combines a variety of entertainment features (like restaurants, theaters and free drinks) with gambling to draw in customers. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers are designed to add glamour and appeal to the casino experience, the billions of dollars in profits that casinos make each year come from gambling alone.
Gambling in some form has probably existed since the earliest days of civilization. But the modern casino as we know it came into existence around the 16th century when a gambling craze hit Europe. At that time, European aristocrats frequently held private parties in rooms called ridotti, where they would gather to play games of chance and indulge in other entertainment activities like music and dancing.
Today, casinos have dramatically increased their use of technology to help protect against fraud and other problems. Video cameras monitor patrons and employees from a variety of angles to prevent cheating, while computers routinely supervise the individual games themselves. In a game of roulette, for example, the computer will track the individual bets made minute-by-minute to discover any statistical deviation from expected results.
While a small percentage of every bet is won by the customer, all bets have a built in advantage for the casino that is mathematically determined and can vary from game to game. This house edge can earn a casino millions of bets, or vigorish, each year. As such, the casino is virtually guaranteed to turn a profit, although it will lose money on some bets at any given moment. This financial assurance allows casinos to offer big bettors extravagant inducements, such as free spectacular entertainment and luxurious living quarters.