The modern casino is a gambling hall filled with slot machines and felt tables where players place bets on games of chance. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers draw visitors, casinos wouldn’t exist without the games of chance that give them billions of dollars in profits each year. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps provide the entertainment (and profits) that make casinos one of the world’s most profitable businesses.

While gambling likely dates back to the earliest days of human history, the casino as a place to gamble with a variety of games under one roof didn’t emerge until the 16th century. In Italy, aristocrats held private parties at places called ridotti during a gambling craze that swept Europe. The word ‘casino’ is believed to have come from the Italian for little house.

Today, most states have legalized casino gambling in some form. Nevada is home to many of the world’s best known casinos, but there are also state-licensed gambling establishments in New Jersey and Atlantic City, as well as riverboat casinos in Iowa and Native American casinos on reservations.

Despite their seamy reputation, casinos aren’t all bad. Legitimate businessmen are reluctant to invest in them, however, because of their links to organized crime and the mob’s reputation for controlling them. In the early years, mob money flowed steadily into Las Vegas and Reno, and mobsters got involved personally by taking sole or partial ownership of many of them. Federal crackdowns and the risk of losing a casino license at the slightest hint of mob involvement now keep the mob far away from casino operations.