A casino is a public place that offers a variety of ways to gamble. It can have stage shows, lighted fountains and lavish restaurants to attract patrons. However, it is the games of chance that bring in the billions of dollars in profits to casino owners each year. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette and craps are some of the games that provide this revenue.
Although gambling probably predates recorded history (primitive protodice made of cut knuckle bones and carved six-sided dice have been found in archaeological digs), the modern casino as a collection of gaming rooms did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. At that time, wealthy Italian aristocrats would hold private parties at places called ridotti where gambling was the primary activity. The casinos of today are modeled after these venues, although they are much larger and include many more forms of gambling than their smaller predecessors.
As a business, the casino industry relies on its built-in advantage over players. This advantage, also known as the house edge, is a mathematical expectation that ensures that over long periods of time a casino will make a profit. This profitability allows casinos to offer big bettors a variety of extravagant inducements, including free spectacular entertainment and transportation, luxurious living quarters, reduced-fare transportation and even food, drinks and cigarettes while they play.
Although mob money flowed steadily into Reno and Las Vegas in the 1950s, legitimate businessmen remained reluctant to get involved in the gambling industry. It was only when mobsters began selling their stakes in casinos to real estate investors and hotel chains that the casino business began to grow. These companies had deep pockets and did not mind a taint of crime association that might cost them federal licensing and other protections if the mob controlled their operations.