A casino is a place where people can gamble, play games of chance and enjoy entertainment. It may be a fancy Las Vegas resort with shopping and theaters or a more modest venue that houses only gambling activities. Casinos also provide a range of other services such as restaurants and free drinks, but they would not exist without the gambling that brings in the millions of visitors and billions of dollars in profits each year.
The precise origin of casinos is unknown, although gambling in one form or another has been a popular pastime throughout history. There are primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and even carved six-sided dice from the ancient world in museum collections, but the modern concept of a casino as a place for many different ways to wager money under one roof did not develop until the 16th century. Italian aristocrats held private parties known as ridotti to gamble, drink and enjoy their wealth and status in life without worrying about legal authorities.
During the 1950s, Mafia gangsters provided a huge infusion of cash to Reno and Las Vegas casinos. Mob involvement eventually ended as government crackdowns and the risk of losing a gambling license at the slightest hint of mob ties forced owners to distance themselves from organized crime. Despite the taint of mob ownership, casinos still attract gamblers from around the world who enjoy the excitement of the games and the amenities the hotels offer. Casinos are also a source of employment for a significant number of people and generate tax revenues in their host cities. However, studies show that compulsive gambling often undermines the economic gains from casinos, and the cost of treating problem gamblers frequently reverses any local benefits from gambling revenues.