The word casino is so familiar that it’s easy to forget how recent its origins are. It was not until Nevada legalized gambling in the late 1800s that other states began to build casinos and take advantage of the booming market.
While gambling probably predates recorded history, the concept of a central place where people could find a variety of different ways to gamble under one roof did not emerge until the 16th century. At that time, a gambling craze swept Europe and Italian aristocrats often held private parties called ridotti to enjoy their favorite pastime.
Gambling in casinos is a business, and it relies on patrons spending lots of money. To make sure that happens, casinos employ a lot of security personnel. They keep their eyes peeled for blatant cheating such as palming, marking or switching cards or dice, and watch patrons’ betting patterns to make sure no one is stealing chips from other tables. They also keep track of the number and types of games played, how much money is won or lost by each player, and a host of other data.
The vast majority of games in a casino have a built-in statistical advantage for the house. This advantage can be small, but it is enough to earn casinos millions of dollars each year. The casinos’ earnings are further enhanced by a commission that is sometimes charged to players, called the rake or vig. The house also makes money from the games’ payout percentages.