Casinos and Gambling in the 21st Century

A casino is a gambling establishment that houses and accommodates a variety of games of chance for its patrons. Casinos often feature slot machines, roulette, gaming tables for card and dice, and other traditional gambling equipment. Some casinos also include restaurants and theaters, all in an attempt to attract customers and generate income.

Gambling in some form almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided die found at archaeological sites. But the modern casino as a place for people to find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe and wealthy Italian nobles would hold private parties in rooms called ridotti to gamble and socialize [source: Schwartz].

In the 1970s, many American states changed their laws to allow casinos, with some on Native American reservations that are exempt from state antigambling statutes. Casinos have also been built abroad, especially in the Caribbean and South America. In the 21st century, they are increasingly focusing their investments on high rollers who gamble big and spend heavily. To encourage them to keep coming back, the best casinos offer them extravagant inducements such as free spectacular entertainment and luxury hotel suites.

Another way that casinos try to keep their patrons happy is by offering them comps, or complimentary goods and services, based on the amount they spend. A casino comp is typically a voucher for free food, drinks or show tickets that can be exchanged at the player’s pit boss or a host at the table. Casinos use their gambling data to track players’ play and tally up these rewards. They also rely on these records to plan marketing campaigns and determine how much to spend on each customer.

Some of these perks are available to all patrons, but most casinos have clubs that reward their highest spenders. Members receive a special card that can be swiped before each game to record the time and amount they bet. The cards are then used to tally up points that can be redeemed for various prizes, including free slot play and meals. Casinos also use these cards to track customer behavior and monitor their profits.

Although the mob controlled many of the earlier casinos, businessmen with deep pockets such as real estate investors and hotel chains bought out the gangsters and took over. And because a casino’s license can be suspended if there is even the slightest hint of mob involvement, federal crackdowns and the threat of losing a casino’s gambling privileges keep organized crime out of their operations. But this doesn’t mean that the gambling industry is immune to crime, or that it doesn’t have its own problems.

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