casino, originally, a public hall for music and dancing; by the second half of the 19th century, a collection of gaming or gambling rooms.
The classic example of a casino, and for long the world’s best known, is that at Monte-Carlo, which opened in 1863. The casino has long been a major source of income for the principality of Monaco.
The 21st-century casino is a place where gamblers can risk their money against a common gambler, called the banker or the house. Casinos have almost a uniform character throughout the world. In Europe nearly every country changed its laws in the latter half of the 20th century to permit casinos. In the United Kingdom licensed and supervised gambling clubs, mainly in London, have operated since 1960. Club membership is required and easily obtainable. Casinos are also regulated by the government in France, which legalized them in 1933. France boasts many of the most famous European casinos, including those at Cannes, Nice, Divonne-les-Bains, and Deauville. Other famous European casinos are found in Estoril, Portugal; Corfu, Greece; and Baden-Baden and Bad Homburg von der Höhe, Germany. In the United States legal casinos were long operated only in Las Vegas and other locations in Nevada, where various forms of commercialized gambling houses have been permitted since 1931. The economy of Las Vegas is almost entirely dependent on the large, luxurious casinos that have operated there since the late 1940s. Nearly 40 percent of the total tax revenue in the state of Nevada comes from gambling. A general expansion of casino gambling was under way in the United States during the last decades of the 20th century, with about $6 billion bet annually within casinos by the start of the 21st century. Casino gambling was introduced in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1978, and from the 1980s casinos also began appearing on various American Indian reservations, which are not subject to state antigambling statutes. Several American states amended their laws during the 1980s and ’90s to permit casinos, in some cases limited to those on riverboats. Casinos are also found in Puerto Rico, and there are casinos in many countries in South America. The casino in Havana was closed after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. There are estimated to be more than 3,000 legal casinos and gaming houses worldwide.
Casinos typically accept all bets made by patrons within an established limit, so that a patron cannot win more than a casino can afford to pay. Every game offered gives a casino a mathematical expectancy of winning, and it is very rare for a casino to lose money on its games, even for one day. Because of this virtual assurance of gross profit, casinos regularly offer big bettors extravagant inducements in the form of free spectacular entertainment, transportation, and elegant living quarters. Even lesser bettors are offered reduced-fare transportation, hotel rooms, free drinks and cigarettes while gambling, and other inducements.