A casino is a place where people can gamble on games of chance. It may add luxuries such as restaurants, free drinks, stage shows and dramatic scenery to attract customers. But even less lavish places that house gambling activities could be called casinos.
Gambling in all forms has been a part of human culture throughout history. Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Elizabethan England all had games of chance. Today, people play casino-type games in massive resorts and in small card rooms. They are also found in racetracks and on barges and boats that travel on rivers and lakes. Many states have legalized casino-type game machines to help generate tax revenues.
The casino industry gets billions of dollars a year in profits for private investors, corporations and Native American tribes. Local governments also reap profits from casino operations. The casinos themselves make money by taking a percentage of each bet, a practice known as rake.
In the first half of the twentieth century, organized crime figures controlled most of the gambling business in Las Vegas and Reno. Mob money provided the bankroll for many of the newer casinos. But legitimate businesses were reluctant to get involved with casinos, which had a seamy image and were illegal in most other states. Mob control weakened as real estate investors and hotel chains realized the potential of the business.
In the twenty-first century, casinos focus on high-stakes gamblers. These are often wealthy people who can spend tens of thousands of dollars on one bet. They are ushered into special rooms away from the main floor and given expensive gifts, such as suites and meals, to encourage them to keep betting. Less wealthy gamblers are enticed with comps as well, but on a smaller scale.