What is a Casino?

A casino is a place where people gamble by playing games of chance or skill. Most of these games have mathematically determined odds, giving the house an advantage over the players. Some of the most popular casino games include poker, blackjack, craps, video poker, and roulette. The casinos make money by charging a fee, or a percentage of the players’ winnings, to play the game. This is called the rake.

The first casino-type establishments were founded in the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Italian aristocrats often held private parties in a casino-like venue known as a ridotto, which allowed them to wager on a variety of games without fear of legal prosecution [Source: Schwartz].

Although modern casinos vary greatly in design, they generally aim to exude luxury and excitement. Lush carpets and elaborate hallways often complement brightly colored (often red) walls that are designed to stimulate the senses and cheer patrons on. Clocks are usually absent from casino walls, because staff members want to minimize patrons’ awareness of time passing while they gamble.

Mafia involvement in the early casino business was extensive, with mobster investors providing large sums of cash for the initial investments and taking sole or partial ownership of the properties. However, the mob’s interest in these establishments quickly diminished as other sources of income became available to them. Real estate investors and hotel chains began to see the potential for profits from the gaming industry, bought out the mob interests, and started their own casinos. Federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a license at the slightest hint of Mafia interference further drove the mob away from their gambling cash cows.