A casino is a building or room in which gambling is legalized and/or operated. It’s also an establishment that provides services to people who gamble there, such as food, drinks and hotel rooms. Some casinos are owned and operated by governments, while others are run by private companies. Regardless of ownership, all casinos are designed to create an experience that’s exciting and glamorous, drawing in people from all walks of life to try their luck at games of chance.

While the precise origin of gambling is unknown, there is evidence that it is among the oldest forms of entertainment, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in ancient archaeological sites [Source: Schwartz]. The modern concept of the casino as an all-in-one destination where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century. At that time, gambling was a huge craze in Europe, and Italian nobles would hold lavish parties at places known as ridotti, where they could gamble to their heart’s content.

Gambling in casinos continues to be a big business today, with billions of dollars being raked in by U.S. operators each year. While musical shows, lighted fountains and shopping centers can attract customers, it’s games of chance that generate the vast majority of the profits for the operators.

The most popular game is the slot machine, which has no element of player skill and offers a mathematically determined house edge (which can vary depending on the type of machine). Blackjack, roulette and craps are also common at casinos, but they generally require more knowledge and strategy to play well. Slot machines and video poker are the main economic engine of American casinos, where high volume play at small sums can quickly add up to a significant amount of money for the operator.