What Is a Casino?

A casino (also called a gaming house or a gambling establishment) is an establishment that offers various forms of gambling. It may also offer food, beverages and entertainment. Casinos are most often located near or combined with hotels, restaurants and retail shops. They can be located in a small town, large city, or on cruise ships. Some casinos are stand-alone buildings; others are part of larger complexes that include other types of entertainment such as theaters and live sports venues.

While gambling likely predates recorded history, the modern casino evolved out of a fad that swept through Europe in the 16th century. Although a variety of different games had been played in private rooms in Italy for hundreds of years, the term “casino” did not appear until the fad prompted wealthy citizens to open public venues where they could find everything they needed for their gambling habit under one roof. These rooms were known as ridotti, and they grew so popular that they were even tolerated by the Inquisition.

Today’s casinos are heavily invested in technology that makes them more efficient and lucrative than ever. Every slot machine is wired to a computer, and statistical deviations from the expected payout are immediately identified by software that can alert security personnel to suspicious patrons. Elaborate surveillance systems provide an eye-in-the-sky view of the entire casino floor, and the cameras can be adjusted to focus on specific suspicious activities by security staff in a room filled with banks of monitors.