Despite the fact that gambling has probably existed as early as carved knuckle bones and primitive protodice, the modern casino as a place where patrons can find all kinds of ways to gamble under one roof did not appear until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. It was then that Italian aristocrats held their parties in places called ridotti, where they could play cards, dice and other games without being bothered by the authorities.

Today, casinos feature massive resorts with dining and entertainment options as well as a staggering number of gambling tables and machines. They have sophisticated surveillance systems that are able to track every move a player makes at a table or slot machine. In addition, a high-tech “eye-in-the-sky” system lets security workers watch the entire casino from a control room filled with banks of monitors. If a cheat or thief is suspected, these cameras can zoom in on the patron and identify him or her.

Something about gambling seems to encourage people to try to cheat, steal or scam their way into a jackpot instead of winning by random chance. This is why casinos spend so much time and money on security.

In addition to providing a wide variety of gambling opportunities, successful casinos also bring in billions of dollars each year for the corporations, investors and Native American tribes that own and operate them, as well as state and local governments that collect taxes and other fees. But critics argue that casinos do not necessarily improve a community’s economic health. They claim that casino revenue shifts spending from other forms of local entertainment, that addiction to gambling harms the community and that the cost of treating compulsive gamblers negates any net economic gain casinos may make.