A casino is a special establishment where patrons can engage in gambling activities and have the opportunity to win money. In addition to slots and table games, some casinos also have restaurants, bars, theaters and other entertainment venues. Often, these facilities are combined with hotels, resorts, or other tourist attractions.
While gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, the term casino did not appear until around the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe and Italian aristocrats would gather at private clubhouses known as ridotti to play games like poker, baccarat and roulette. While technically illegal, these small clubs were not bothered by authorities and were able to operate with relative impunity [Source: Schwartz].
Today, most casinos offer a wide variety of casino games for customers to choose from. These include video poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, keno, and baccarat. Most of these games have mathematically determined odds that give the house an advantage over the players. This advantage is referred to as the house edge. Casinos are able to make money on these games because they collect a percentage of the total bets made by patrons, called the vig or rake.
While it is impossible to know exactly how many people visit casinos, some estimates are very high. A large number of these visitors are from the United States and Canada. Other major casino visitors are from Mexico and other countries where legalized gambling is permitted. In many cases, casinos are open to local residents as well as tourists.