A casino is a gambling establishment where people play games of chance and skill. Whether it’s an elegant, massive resort like the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco or a tiny card room on the edge of a road in Nebraska, successful casinos bring in billions each year for the corporations, investors and Native American tribes that own and operate them. State and local governments also reap a windfall through the taxes and fees they charge on gaming revenues.

While the precise origin of gambling is unknown, it is believed to have occurred in nearly every culture throughout history. The modern casino has evolved from the earlier, less lavish establishments that housed gambling activities and added food service, stage shows and other amenities to lure patrons.

Gambling has a dark side, as well, and casino owners have always been savvy about capitalizing on the potential for crime. Mob figures, which had plenty of money from illegal rackets such as extortion and drug dealing, poured huge sums into casinos in Nevada and elsewhere. Some became so involved that they took sole or partial ownership of a casino, and even influenced the outcome of individual games.

Given the large amounts of currency handled in a casino, both patrons and employees may be tempted to cheat or steal. To prevent this, casinos employ a variety of security measures including surveillance cameras and other technology. They also encourage players to gamble responsibly by promoting “comps” (free goods and services such as hotel rooms, dinners and tickets to shows). Some of these incentives are so elaborate that they are the subject of novels and films, including Ben Mezrich’s “Busting Vegas” and the James Bond movie “Monte Carlo.” The casino has been a popular setting for fiction since the early twentieth century.