What is a Casino?

Casino is a large room with a wide variety of gambling tables and machines. Its walls are decorated with flashing lights and loud music. People shout encouragement to each other as they play. The floors are often bright red, a color that is believed to encourage gambling. Drinks are served on the house, and players can receive comps (free goods or services) for their patronage, if they are “good” enough.

Although gambling probably predates recorded history, the modern casino with its variety of games and social atmosphere did not appear until the late sixteenth century. That time was marked by a gambling craze that swept Europe. Italian aristocrats, in particular, formed private clubs known as ridotti where they could gamble and hold parties. Although technically illegal, the aristocracy did not seem to care about the seamy image of gambling.

By the 1950s casinos had become a big business. As they expanded, owners looked for funds to help them avoid the taint of crime associated with gambling. They turned to organized crime, which had the money and was willing to invest in the businesses despite their seamy reputation. The mobsters became involved with the casinos personally as well, taking sole or partial ownership and using their mob ties to control the action.

Today, there are more than a dozen major casinos in the United States, and some worldwide. Each has its own theme and attractions. Some are built around a specific location, such as the Montreal Casino, which occupies three of the buildings that were used for Expo ’67.