A casino is a place where games of chance are played. The games can be as simple as a game of roulette or as complex as a poker game. Casinos are found all over the world, from the massive Las Vegas Strip resorts to small card rooms in suburban homes. Casino-type games are also found at racetracks as racinos and in bars, restaurants, and truck stops.
The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it is clear that people have always enjoyed putting something at risk in order to try to increase their fortunes. The first casinos, in modern senses of the word, appeared in Europe in the nineteenth century. They evolved out of existing horse race tracks that were adapted to house gaming activities.
Casinos generate billions of dollars each year in profits for the companies, investors and native American tribes that own them. They also contribute millions in taxes to state and local governments. Most of the people who visit casinos, however, are not wealthy or well-educated. In fact, it is estimated that 51 million Americans–a quarter of the population over the age of 21–visited a casino in 2002.
In addition to gambling, a casino is usually equipped with stage shows, all-you-can-eat buffets and plush accommodations in order to lure in as many gamblers as possible. In the twentieth century, casinos became increasingly choosy about their patrons, seeking out high rollers and offering them extravagant inducements like free spectacular entertainment, discounted travel and luxury living quarters.