A casino is a place where people play games of chance and skill. It can be as large as a Las Vegas resort or as small as a card room in a bar or a truck stop. It can even be a virtual space, such as an Internet-based gambling hall. Casinos are a major source of revenue for the companies, investors, and Native American tribes that own them. They also generate billions of dollars each year in gambling taxes, fees, and other payments to state and local governments. However, economic studies indicate that casinos often bring negative economic impacts to the communities in which they are located. For example, they can shift spending from other forms of entertainment and cause trouble for local families struggling with compulsive gambling. And they can hurt property values in the neighborhoods around them.

Although gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, the casino as a centralized location where people could find a variety of gambling activities under one roof did not develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. In Italy, wealthy aristocrats held private parties at locations known as ridotti in which they could gamble without the fear of being prosecuted by legal authorities.

The modern casino usually consists of a physical security force and a specialized surveillance department that operates a closed circuit television system, or “eye-in-the-sky.” Both departments work closely together to monitor patrons for suspicious or criminal activity. In addition, cameras in the ceiling regularly scan every table, window, and doorway and can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons.