What Is a Casino?


A casino is a gambling establishment offering a variety of table games and slot machines. Patrons gamble by playing games of chance, with some having an element of skill, and in return are given complimentary items or services – or “comps” – depending on the amount they spend while gambling.

Gambling in some form likely predates recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice found in ancient archaeological sites. The casino as a facility where people could find a variety of gambling games under one roof probably did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Italian aristocrats, for instance, often held private parties in houses known as ridotti, where they enjoyed a variety of games that technically violated the law.

Today, casinos are located around the world. In the United States, casinos are most concentrated in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. They are also found on some American Indian reservations, which are not subject to state antigambling laws. Many of these institutions are lavish, combining the traditional gambling den with hotel accommodations and restaurants.

Something about the sheer size of a casino and the huge amounts of money handled within its confines seems to encourage both patrons and staff members to cheat or steal. For this reason, casinos spend a great deal of time, effort and money on security. Casinos use surveillance cameras throughout the building to monitor activities, and each table and chair is assigned a specific area that can be monitored by a higher-up employee who can adjust camera views as needed.

Table game dealers are especially vigilant, watching for blatant cheating, such as palming or marking cards or dice. Pit bosses watch the tables from a different angle, looking for betting patterns that might indicate collusion among players or other suspicious activity. In addition, casino security personnel patrol the gaming floor to keep a close eye on patrons and staff members alike.

Some casinos feature a variety of popular Western games, including roulette, blackjack, baccarat and slot machines, while others focus on Far Eastern games such as sic bo (which spread to several European and American casinos during the 1990s), fan-tan and pai-gow. Regardless of the specific games, most casinos offer free drinks and snacks to guests while they are gambling, as well as reduced-fare transportation and hotel rooms for big spenders. Some even give away limo service and airline tickets to top patrons. These examples are automatically generated from online sources and may not reflect the views of Merriam-Webster’s editors. However, we hope they are useful as an aid to your research.