A casino is a place where gambling activities take place. Modern casinos have a palatial look that is meant to dazzle visitors. They may have restaurants, free drinks and stage shows to attract more customers. But the basic idea is to offer gamblers a variety of games of chance under one roof.

Casinos make money by charging players for admission, offering complimentary items and betting credits called comps, and by establishing a margin or house advantage over the player’s expected value. Some games have a skill element and players with sufficient skills can eliminate the house edge. Casinos also collect taxes from gamblers and may pay out winnings in proportion to the amount wagered, a practice known as vigorish.

Gambling is a common activity in many societies. Its history dates back thousands of years. Primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice have been found in archaeological digs, but the casino as a gathering place for gambling didn’t develop until the 16th century. Italian aristocrats used private clubs, known as ridotti, to hold gambling parties that were technically illegal.

As Nevada’s gambling business boomed in the 1950s, legitimate businesses turned away from it. Mafia leaders, with their enormous bankrolls from extortion and drug dealing, filled the gap. They controlled large parts of the casino industry and even took sole or partial ownership in some properties. This brought the casinos into a new light. Despite their seamy image, organized crime figures made the casino business a profitable enterprise and helped legitimize it.