What is a Casino?


A casino is a place where people gamble on games of chance. While casinos may feature musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and elaborate hotel themes, their core business is gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and keno provide the billions in profit that casinos rake in every year.

Although gambling probably predates written history, the casino as a place to find many different ways to bet under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century. A gambling craze swept Europe and Italian aristocrats gathered in private clubs called ridotti to play a variety of games. Although gambling was technically illegal, the aristocrats weren’t bothered by legal authorities and the ridotti grew in popularity.

Gambling in modern casinos is a complex and highly profitable business. A typical casino has a built in advantage for the house that can be as small as two percent, but it adds up over time and millions of bets. This advantage is known as the vig or rake. Casinos also make money from the machines themselves by paying out winning combinations more often than they lose them.

While legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in casinos because of their taint of “vice,” mobster banks had plenty of cash from drug dealing, extortion and other illegal rackets. Mafia money flowed steadily into Reno and Las Vegas and casinos quickly became the focus of mob infiltration. As the Mafia’s power diminished, real estate developers and hotel chains began investing in casinos. They had more money than the mob and were able to buy out mob influence.