Casinos are establishments that offer a variety of gambling activities. They provide customers with an array of games of chance, or, in some cases, skill, such as roulette, poker, blackjack, craps, and video poker. These games have mathematically determined odds that give the house an advantage over the players. Casinos earn profits by encouraging game players to spend more money than they intend to win. They also offer complimentary items and services, known as comps, to regular visitors.

The casino industry has a significant impact on the economy. It employs more than 2 million people worldwide and generates more than $400 billion in annual revenue. The casino industry is regulated by laws in most countries. However, there are concerns about the social and economic costs of casinos. Compulsive gambling and the loss of productivity among those who work in casinos offset any economic benefits they may bring to a community.

The success of Goodfellas, the 1990 Martin Scorsese crime epic starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, convinced Universal to take a risk on Casino in 1995. Scorsese and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi adapted the fact-based book about organized crime in Las Vegas by Frank Rosenthal. The film was a box-office hit and established Scorsese as a director of mafia films. But despite a handful of truly hellacious sequences—including a popped eyeball and baseball bat beating that had to be cut from the original version for an NC-17 rating—Casino is ultimately less about violent criminality than about its effects on society.