A casino is a building that houses and accommodates certain types of gambling activities. The term is a contraction of the Italian word cazino, which refers to a small clubhouse for social occasions, such as cards games or dice.
While the glitzy hotels, musical shows and shopping centers lining the Las Vegas Strip have made casinos famous around the world, the vast majority of the billions in profits raked in annually by casinos come from games of chance. Slot machines, roulette, blackjack, craps and poker are just a few of the many games that help casinos make money.
Most casinos feature a mix of gambling and non-gambling activities, including restaurants, bars, swimming pools, spas and shops. They also offer comps, or free gifts to big spenders, such as rooms, food and tickets to shows. The amount of time and money a patron spends at a game determines how often the casino comps them.
Casinos first appeared in the United States after Nevada legalized gambling in 1931. Once they gained popularity, other states followed suit and the number of casinos quickly rose. Today, there are more than 1,000 casinos worldwide, with the largest concentration in Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Although most people associate casinos with gambling, the concept was originally much more benign. The original casinos in the United States were built as social clubs, and their games of chance, such as roulette, baccarat and chemin-de-fer, were not seen as sinful. As the mobsters who ran these clubs were driven out by federal prosecution and crackdowns on organized crime, real estate investors and hotel chains saw their opportunity to make a mint.