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What Is a Casino?

A casino is a public place where people can find a variety of games of chance and gambling is the primary activity. A casino often adds luxuries such as restaurants, free drinks and stage shows to help attract players.

Although gambling almost certainly predates written history, the casino as a place for a wide range of gaming activities under one roof didn’t appear until the 16th century, when it became popular in Europe during a betting craze. Previously, wealthy Italian nobles would hold private parties in places called ridotti where they could gamble without worrying about legal repercussions.

Gambling is a profitable business for casinos, but the exact amount of profit depends on the house edge, or mathematical advantage, which is uniformly negative (from the player’s perspective). A mathematical analysis of casino games gives an estimate of this advantage. Professionals who study casino mathematics are called gaming mathematicians or casino analysts.

Casinos earn a significant portion of their profits from high rollers, who play for very large amounts of money and spend hours at slot machines. These players receive comps, which are free goods or services offered by the casino based on their level of play. They may also get discounts on rooms, meals or show tickets.

The mob controlled many casinos in the 1950s, but real estate developers and hotel chains soon realized they could make more money than gangsters did and bought out the mafia’s interest. Today, casino operators must be careful to avoid the slightest hint of mob involvement or risk losing their gaming licenses.