A casino is a public place where people can gamble on games of chance. It can be a fancy place like Las Vegas, or it can be less extravagant, but gambling is still the primary activity. Casinos also offer other forms of entertainment such as restaurants, free drinks and stage shows. But they would not exist without games of chance, which are what they really are all about. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat and poker provide billions of dollars in profit for casinos each year.
Gambling probably existed long before recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice being found in archaeological digs. But the modern casino as a place where multiple gambling activities could be found under one roof did not emerge until the 16th century, when a craze for gaming in Europe prompted wealthy Italian aristocrats to create private clubs known as ridotti [Source: Schwartz]. These were not casinos as we know them today, but they aimed to attract the same kind of customers.
The mob controlled many of these early casinos, but federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a gambling license at the faintest hint of mafia involvement helped to drive out the mobsters and create the first legitimate casinos. Nowadays, major hotel chains and real estate investors own and operate many casinos. They also understand that gambling is not enough to keep people coming back. So they offer other entertainment and attractions to keep people around longer, such as fine dining, luxury accommodations and performance venues for pop and rock bands.