The Truth About Casinos

Whether you’re itching to hit the slots, pull up a chair at the roulette table or put on your best poker face, a casino is the place to scratch that gambling itch. But be careful: It’s not as glamorous as it looks in the movies. While it can give you a rush, studies show that casinos bring little economic benefit to the surrounding area and often do more harm than good. And don’t get us started on the cost of treating problem gamblers.

Although gambling almost certainly predates written history, the casino as a place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof did not emerge until the 16th century, when a gambling craze swept Europe. In Italy, aristocrats would host private parties at venues called ridotti, where they could play cards, dice and other games in the company of their peers.

The modern casino is a complex structure with many security measures in place to prevent cheating and theft. Patrons are watched by security cameras, and intricate surveillance systems provide a high-tech “eye in the sky” that can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons. In addition to technology, casinos enforce security through rules and procedures: For example, players at card tables must keep their hands visible at all times.

While the concept of a casino is international, the majority are located in the United States. They include Atlantic City, New Jersey; Las Vegas, Nevada; and various locations on American Indian reservations, which are not subject to state antigambling laws. Some casinos are also found in South America and Asia.