The Casino – A History Lesson


A casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults, with musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers in addition to games of chance. The real cash cow, though, is gambling, and it is the billions of dollars in profits from slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno, and other games of chance that keep casinos in the black.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in some of the world’s oldest archaeological sites. The modern casino, however, did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze spread throughout Europe. Italian aristocrats gathered in private gambling clubs called ridotti to play a variety of games, and the concept eventually spread to the United States.

Casinos are often heavily guarded, with surveillance cameras in the main room and on the floor. Table managers and pit bosses watch over table games, checking for blatant cheating and stealing, and keeping an eye out for betting patterns that might signal collusion. Most casinos also have catwalks in the ceiling, allowing security to look down through one-way glass at the patrons at individual tables and slots.

While the mob still provides much of the money to run Las Vegas’s many megaresort casinos, it is no longer involved in day-to-day operations. During the 1990s, legitimate businessmen with deep pockets such as Donald Trump and the Hilton hotel chain began to purchase the mob’s shares in casinos, and federal crackdowns on illegal rackets have helped keep the mobsters far away from their gambling cash cows.