A casino is a place where people can gamble. The word casino is derived from the Italian for small clubhouse, and it is believed that the modern casino evolved from 16th century gambling crazes. Primitive proto-dice and carved six-sided dice have been found at archaeological sites, but the first true casino developed as a place for European aristocrats to socialize and gamble within the law in private places known as ridotti [Source: Schwartz].

Today’s casinos are much more elaborate, with stage shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers, and lavish hotels to lure in customers. But despite the trappings, most of a casino’s profits are generated by games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps account for billions of dollars in annual profits.

While some gamblers believe that certain games are fair, most have a built-in house advantage. This advantage is based on the mathematically determined odds for each game and can vary from one machine to another, but it can never be less than two percent. This edge is what gives casinos their virtual assurance of gross profit. It is why they can afford to offer big bettors extravagant inducements like free spectacular entertainment, limosine transportation and elegant living quarters.

Casinos use a variety of security methods to ensure that patrons are not cheating. Dealers are heavily monitored by other staff to detect blatant cheating such as palming, marking or switching cards and dice. In the 1990s, many casinos installed sophisticated systems to monitor gaming tables electronically and quickly spot statistical deviations from expected results. Some have catwalks in the ceiling that allow surveillance personnel to look down, through one way glass, on table and slot actions.