A casino is a place where people gamble on games of chance. Although some casinos add luxuries such as theaters, restaurants, stage shows and elaborate scenery to draw in visitors, they would not exist without the games of chance that allow patrons to win or lose money based on luck. The most popular gambling games include slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, craps and keno. Some people become addicted to these games, and they generate a disproportionately large share of the profits for the casinos. Compulsive gambling can also have economic costs, including loss of productivity and treatment for problem gamblers.

In the United States, 51 million people–the equivalent of one quarter of all adults over the age of 21–visited a casino in 2002. The vast majority of those visits were legal. The typical casino gambler was a forty-six-year-old female from a household with an above-average income. People who play for long periods of time or spend a lot of money at a casino are often given free goods and services, known as comps, that can range from hotel rooms and dinners to airline tickets and limousine service.

Although gambling has probably existed since prehistoric times, the modern casino developed in the 16th century during a gambling craze. At that time, European aristocrats enjoyed private parties at places called ridotti, where they could gamble and socialize in an atmosphere away from the prying eyes of religious authorities. Today, there are many types of casinos, from the glamorous Las Vegas strip to illegal pai gow parlors in New York’s Chinatown.