A casino is a gambling establishment that provides patrons with a variety of games of chance and in some cases skill. While musical shows, lighted fountains, shopping centers and elaborate hotel themes help to attract gamblers, casinos would not exist without the billions of dollars in profits generated by games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, keno and baccarat provide the majority of this income. In fact, these games are the foundation of what makes casinos so much fun to visit.
The precise origin of gambling is unknown, although it appears in virtually every culture around the world. Some of the earliest known casinos were built in ancient Egypt and Rome. Modern casinos can be found worldwide, including large resorts in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and small card rooms in cities and towns across the United States. Casinos are also located on cruise ships and in foreign countries.
As the popularity of gambling increased, organized crime figures began to invest their money in the industry. Mafia money brought a new level of sophistication to casinos, as mobster owners became personally involved in the operations and took full or partial ownership of some casinos. Federal crackdowns and the fear of losing their gaming licenses at even a whiff of mafia involvement eventually forced mobster investors out of the business.
Despite their dark side, casinos continue to bring in massive profits for their owners. They are even attracting a growing number of foreign investors. However, critics argue that the money spent on treating compulsive gamblers and the loss in economic productivity caused by their addiction often outweighs any net positive impact of a casino on local economies.