A casino, in a broad sense, is any place where gambling takes place. While the modern casino often has many of the trappings of an amusement park — restaurants, shops, stage shows and dramatic scenery — its true raison d’être is gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, poker and craps are the games that generate the billions in profits casinos rake in each year. Although gambling has existed since primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice were discovered in ancient archaeological sites, the casino as we know it today did not develop until the 16th century during a betting craze in Europe. At the time, European aristocrats held private parties called ridotti where they gambled for sums of money. These parties were technically illegal but casinos rarely pressed charges against their patrons because they accounted for only a small percentage of total revenues.
Elaborate surveillance systems offer a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” that allows security personnel to watch every table, window and doorway at the same time. The cameras can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons and can also be reviewed after the fact. Because the amount of money handled in a casino can make both employees and patrons tempted to cheat, most casinos are heavily regulated and have very high levels of security.
Problem gambling, which can have devastating consequences for an individual and his or her family, is a significant concern in the gaming industry. To help control the issue, most states include statutory funding for responsible gambling programs as part of their casino licensing conditions.