The word “casino” means “little house.” Its etymology is uncertain, but it might be from a diminutive of casa, meaning a cottage or hut. The modern sense of the word derives from gambling establishments in Italy that offered music and dancing in addition to betting games. Today, casinos offer slots, roulette, blackjack, poker, bingo, keno, craps and baccarat.
Gambling is an ancient activity and has been a popular pastime in many cultures around the world. The United States has legalized gambling in 43 states. Some casinos are owned by large real estate investors and hotel chains; others are run by local mobs. Federal crackdowns and the risk of losing a gaming license at the slightest hint of mob involvement have forced mafia-run casinos to find new owners.
Casinos make money by calculating the odds of each game and placing bets against players. This gives them a built-in advantage, usually lower than two percent, that they rake in over millions of bets. They also give comps to “good” players, which can include free rooms and meals, tickets to shows, limo service or even airline tickets. The math works against you in a casino, so it’s in your best financial interest to stay out of them unless you have plenty of cash in your wallet. Even then, it’s wise to play conservatively. A little knowledge goes a long way.