Despite the glamour, musical shows and other entertainment that make up much of the atmosphere of modern casinos, gambling is still the main draw for most patrons. Slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, craps and baccarat provide the billions of dollars in profits that casinos bring in each year.
The casino as we know it today was developed in the 16th century during a gambling craze that swept Europe. During that time, Italian aristocrats held private parties in places called ridotti, where they could gamble and socialize without worrying about the church or the inquisition. The modern casino is based on the concept of offering many different ways to gamble under one roof, with tables and slot machines taking up most of the floor space.
Gambling in a casino is regulated by laws governing the types of games and the amounts that can be won. To discourage cheating, the casino employs a number of security measures. Dealers are trained to recognize blatantly obvious tricks like palming cards or marking dice. Each table has a manager or pit boss who keeps an eye on the overall action. And the casino has catwalks in the ceiling that allow surveillance personnel to look directly down on the table and slots through one-way glass.
In addition to security, casinos rely on customer service to keep people coming back. They offer perks for big spenders, known as comps, that include free hotel rooms, dinners and show tickets. They use bright and sometimes gaudy floor and wall coverings to stimulate the senses and help patrons forget about time.