A casino is a place where people can gamble on a variety of games of chance for money. Casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and other entertainment venues. In the United States, about 51 million people visited casinos in 2002. These establishments are often crowded, noisy, and exciting, as gamblers try to beat the house edge.

Gambling probably predates written history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in ancient archaeological sites. But the modern casino as a place where gamblers could find a variety of ways to bet under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Aristocrats in Italy created their own private clubs called ridotti, where they played cards and dice with friends. These clubs were technically illegal, but the aristocrats didn’t seem to care.

Casinos make money by taking a percentage of each bet. This is called the “house edge,” and it ensures that casinos will win money over time. Casinos also take in money from nongamblers by offering free drinks and food.

Something about gambling (probably the presence of large amounts of money) encourages people to cheat, steal and scam their way to a jackpot, so casinos spend a lot of time, effort and money on security. Security begins on the casino floor, where employees watch patrons to spot blatant cheating like palming or marking cards or dice. Cameras in the ceiling give security workers a high-tech eye-in-the-sky view of the casino, and they can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons.

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