A casino is a public place where a variety of games of chance are played. Although gambling probably predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in ancient archaeological sites, the casino as we know it today emerged during a gambling craze in Italy around the 16th century. It was originally a small private clubhouse called a ridotto where gamblers could avoid legal scrutiny by meeting in private.

A modern casino is a complex of gaming rooms, restaurants, bars, and shows. Its elaborate security systems include cameras in the ceiling that provide a high-tech eye-in-the-sky view of every table and window, and are controlled by security personnel in a room filled with banks of video screens.

Gambling is a major source of revenue for casinos, and a big draw for tourists. But it also creates problems, including compulsive gambling that can be a serious health risk, and the loss of income from people who abandon other forms of recreation to gamble. Economic studies have shown that casinos actually hurt local economies by pulling money away from other entertainment and business opportunities.

Some casinos reward their biggest spenders with free hotel rooms, meals, and tickets to shows or limo service. They also offer less expensive “comps” to players who play certain games, based on the amount of time they spend playing and the size of their bets. These programs are similar to airline frequent-flyer programs and help casinos develop a database that can be used for marketing purposes.