A casino is a gambling establishment that offers a variety of gambling-related games. The games are typically played with cards, dice, or slots. In some cases, skill is involved, such as in the case of poker and table games like roulette and craps. The casino business is an important source of income for many countries, and is often regulated by government agencies.
The word casino is thought to have been derived from the Italian word for a small clubhouse used for social gatherings, called ridotti [Source: Schwartz]. Gambling certainly predates the modern casinos, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in archaeological sites. But the casino as we know it now grew out of a casino craze that began in Europe in the 16th century. As the popularity of gambling soared, wealthy people sought out private venues to host gaming events, known as ridotti, in which they could play a wide variety of casino games.
Casinos make their money by charging players a commission on the bets they take, or the “vigorish” or the “rake.” They also have built-in house edges that ensure that the casino always wins. These edges, which are mathematically determined, can be as low as two percent for some games. But over time, they add up to billions of dollars in profits for casinos. This revenue allows them to build fancy hotels, fountains and replicas of famous landmarks. Moreover, they can afford to offer free food and drinks, as well as lavish shows featuring top performers.