Around 51 million people — a full quarter of all adults age 21 or over — visited casinos in 2002. That’s a lot of people to cram into a small space, and they’re doing it all over the world, from the glittering lights and slot machines of Las Vegas to the legal pai gow parlors of New York’s Chinatown.
Casino, from the Latin cazino (house), originally meant a public hall for music and dancing; by the second half of the 19th century it had come to refer to any gambling establishment. In modern times, a casino can be an elaborate facility housing multiple gaming tables and other forms of gambling, such as poker rooms or bingo halls. It can also be an integrated resort complex featuring hotels, restaurants, shops, and other amenities.
While the precise origin of gambling is unknown, it’s clear that it has been an integral part of human culture throughout history. From primitive protodice and carved knuckle bones to Napoleon’s France and Elizabethan England, games of chance have entertained many generations.
Casinos make money by charging a percentage of the total bets placed by patrons. This advantage can be as low as two percent, but when it’s applied to millions of bets, it adds up. In addition to this built-in profit, most casinos offer a variety of other inducements, such as free spectacular entertainment, reduced-fare transportation and hotel rooms, and complimentary drinks and snacks while gambling.