A casino is a place to gamble and play games of chance. It is also a entertainment center with live shows, top-notch hotels, spas and restaurants.

Gambling almost certainly predates recorded history, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in the most ancient archaeological sites. However, the modern casino as a place to find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof did not emerge until the 16th century during a gambling craze in Europe. At that time, wealthy Italian aristocrats gathered in private places called ridotti to gamble and socialize. Though technically illegal, these private ridotti were rarely bothered by legal authorities.

During the 20th century, real estate investors and hotel chains realized the profit potential of casinos. They bought out the mob and restructured their operations so they would not be susceptible to mafia interference. Today, the biggest casinos are massive in size and feature a wide range of games that appeal to many different types of gamblers.

To maximize their profits, casinos carefully analyze the house edge and variance of all their games. They are assisted in this effort by gaming mathematicians and computer programmers who calculate optimal plays for various situations. This analysis is critical in games where the player competes against the house, such as blackjack or roulette. It is less important for games where the player does not compete against the house, such as poker. The casinos rely on these mathematical models to determine the maximum amount of money they can make per bet, as well as how much cash they should have on hand to cover losses.