A casino is a place where people can find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof. Modern casinos add other luxuries to attract patrons such as restaurants, free drinks and stage shows but gambling is the core activity. It is believed that gaming in some form predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in archaeological sites [Source: Schwartz]. The name casino reflects a European origin but the idea of a central place for people to gather to engage in gambling activities was first popularized by the Italian aristocracy in places called ridotti (little houses) during a gambling craze of the 16th century.
A modern casino is a high-tech facility with an enormous amount of surveillance equipment. Cameras monitor everything from the doors and windows to the slot machines. A sophisticated system known as “chip tracking” allows casinos to monitor exact amounts wagered minute-by-minute and alert them to any statistical deviations from expected results. Roulette wheels are electronically monitored for anomalies, and all video footage is stored on a central computer server.
Gambling is a huge business and a lucrative one for casino owners. However, critics point out that the money poured into casinos from gambling addicts actually cancels out any economic benefits to a community; plus, studies indicate that casino revenue can actually depress local property values. Even so, the casinos continue to thrive in cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. They also operate on American Indian reservations and in states that have amended their anti-gambling laws to allow casinos.