A casino is a place where people can play a variety of games of chance for money. It may be a very lavish place with stage shows and dramatic scenery, but it can also be a more modest building with a handful of poker tables and 130 slot machines. Casinos make money by taking a percentage of each bet placed by patrons. This can be very small (less than two percent) but over millions of bets it can add up to a significant amount of money. Casinos also make money by offering big bettors extravagant inducements such as free spectacular entertainment, limousine service, reduced-fare transportation and elegant living quarters while they gamble.

Gambling has been popular in almost every society throughout history. There are many different types of gambling, from the ancient Mesopotamian game of dice to modern day lottery tickets. However, the concept of casinos as places where large amounts of money can be won through a combination of luck and skill is relatively new.

For the first few decades after their inception, casinos were largely illegal establishments. Even when Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, it took another forty-seven years before the state of New Jersey followed suit. The earliest casinos were often run by organized crime figures who used casino profits to fund their drug dealing and extortion operations. Many of these mob-run casinos still exist today, especially in Reno and Las Vegas. Other more legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest in the businesses because of their seamy reputation, but a number of these casinos were eventually taken over by reputable businessmen.