A casino is a gambling establishment that offers a wide variety of games of chance and some games of skill. Some casinos also offer food, drinks and non-gambling entertainment like shows or swimming pools. They may be large and impressive, with a great number of table games and slot machines, or small and intimate, offering only a few tables and a handful of machines.
The word casino has a complicated history. Its precise origin is unknown, but it is generally accepted that the first modern casinos were built in Europe in the latter half of the 20th century, following legalization of gambling in many countries. Before that, most gambling took place in public houses (in the US) or private clubs, where members paid an entrance fee to play.
Casinos make money by accepting bets on games of chance and by charging a percentage of the total bets, called the house edge or vigorish. This advantage can be very small – less than two percent for some games – but it adds up over the millions of bets placed at casinos every year. This income allows them to build elaborate hotel towers, fountains, pyramids and replicas of famous landmarks.
Besides the traditional European and American casino games, some casinos specialize in regional Far Eastern games like sic bo (which spread to many European and American casinos during the 1990s), fan-tan, and pai gow. They also offer a variety of other table games and poker rooms. They usually use chips instead of real money to keep players from worrying about losing too much, although this doesn’t reduce the house edge.