A casino is a place where gambling-related activities take place. A modern casino often offers a lot more than just gambling, including restaurants, shops and even stage shows. But it is the gambling that draws in the crowds and provides billions of dollars in profits for owners each year. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat and poker are the games that make casinos what they are.
Modern casinos look a lot like indoor amusement parks, complete with music, lights and glitzy architecture. But they would not exist without gambling. The games give casinos a mathematical expectancy of winning, and large bettors are often offered extravagant inducements, such as free spectacular entertainment and luxury living quarters.
Casinos have a long history of being associated with organized crime and illegal racketeering, but they also offer opportunities for legitimate businessmen. In Nevada, where casinos first took off, mafia money helped finance the construction and operation of many casinos. But mobsters were not content to simply provide the funds. They became personally involved, taking sole or partial ownership of some casinos and even influencing game outcomes.
In the 1990s casinos dramatically increased their use of technology for security purposes. Electronic systems track betting chips with built-in microcircuitry to oversee the exact amounts wagered minute-by-minute; roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviation from their expected results; and video cameras in the ceiling provide a high-tech eye-in-the-sky, keeping an eye on every table, window and doorway.