A casino is a place where people play games of chance and pay for the privilege. Gambling has long been a popular pastime, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice found at the world’s oldest archaeological sites. The idea of casinos, as a collection of various gambling activities under one roof, arose in the 16th century with the Italian gambling craze. Nobles would hold private parties in places known as ridotti, where they could enjoy a wide range of games without worrying about legal authorities [Source: Schwartz].

Today’s casinos are dazzlingly complex, offering gamblers an array of table and slot machine games, electronic and arcade games, keno, poker, bingo and more. Casino patrons spend billions of dollars each year, and the industry is booming in countries where gambling is legal. But gambling has its downsides – compulsive gamblers cost casinos billions in treatment and lost productivity, and many communities find that the net value of casinos is negative.

As recently as the 1950s, legitimate businessmen were wary of getting involved with casinos, which had a seamy association with organized crime figures. But mafia leaders had plenty of cash from their drug dealing and extortion rackets, and they were more than happy to provide the funding that allowed casino owners to expand their facilities. As federal crackdowns made mob involvement unfeasible, real estate investors and hotel chains took over the running of casinos. Today, some of the biggest gaming operations on the planet are housed in opulent and glamorous resorts.