A casino is a public place where a variety of games of chance can be played and gambling is the primary activity. Typically, casinos feature stage shows and dramatic scenery to add to the excitement. However, there have been less lavish places that housed gambling activities and were still called casinos.

The precise origin of gambling is unknown, but it almost certainly predates recorded history. Primitive protodice and carved knuckle bones have been found in ancient archaeological sites. During the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe, wealthy aristocrats often held private parties at places known as ridotti, where they could gamble without fear of persecution by the Italian Inquisition.

Modern casinos offer a wide variety of gambling games and are designed to appeal to the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Bright lights, sometimes gaudy, are used to attract attention; more than 15,000 miles of neon tubing is used to illuminate the Las Vegas Strip. The noises of slot machines and the clang of dropping coins are electronically tuned to a musical key and are designed to stimulate the brain and increase the perception of winning.

The typical casino patron is a forty-six-year-old female from a household with above-average income. The total number of people who gamble in the United States is estimated to be about 23 million. A recent survey by Harrah’s Entertainment showed that most gamblers are middle-aged and older, with about two-thirds having some college education and a high school diploma or GED certificate.