A casino is a gambling establishment that offers an array of games of chance. It usually features a variety of table games, slot machines and other gaming equipment. Many casinos also offer food and beverage services, as well as entertainment such as stage shows. Some casinos are built in or combined with hotels, resorts and other tourist attractions. In the United States, the most famous casinos are located in Las Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey, while the largest casino is Venetian Macau in China.
The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it is believed to have existed in some form for most of recorded history. Primitive protodice and carved knuckle bones have been found at various archaeological sites, but the modern casino as an institution did not emerge until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. Wealthy Italian nobles would hold private parties at venues called ridotti; these small clubhouses allowed them to gamble in a setting that was not widely illegal, and they flourished.
While modern casinos are often viewed as glamorous entertainment centers, they are in fact businesses that strive to turn a profit. In order to maximize profits, they have a number of built-in advantages that guarantee that the house will win more than it loses. These include the absence of windows and clocks, which prevent patrons from realizing how long they have been playing or how much money they have lost.