What Is a Casino?

A casino is an establishment for gambling. It is often combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shops and other tourist attractions. In the United States, casinos are regulated by state law and have distinct legal definitions. Casinos offer a variety of games, including blackjack, roulette, poker and craps. Some casinos also feature sports books, horse race betting and various other gambling activities. Some are based on Native American culture, while others focus on Chinese traditions. A casino is also known as a gaming house or a gambling hall.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in ancient archaeological sites. But the casino as a central place for multiple ways to gamble did not develop until the 16th century, when Italian aristocrats began holding private parties at their houses called ridotti [Source: Schwartz].

Casinos vary in size and style, but all are designed to encourage patrons to spend money. They use a wide variety of incentives and promotional techniques to attract players, from free food to comps (gifts awarded for high-volume play). Casinos are largely staffed by people trained to detect cheating. Card dealers are trained to spot blatant manipulation of the cards, and pit bosses have a wider view of table games to watch for suspicious patterns in betting.

Some critics charge that casinos harm communities by diverting local spending from other entertainment and by contributing to problem gambling. They also argue that the cost of treating addiction and the lost productivity of people who lose control of their gambling habits negates any financial benefits casinos may bring.