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How Gambling Has Changed Over Time

How Gambling Has Changed Over Time


The haze of smoke, flashing lights and scurrying of chips on the casino floor invite people to try their luck at games of chance. The modern casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults, with the vast majority of its entertainment (and profits for its owners) coming from gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat and more provide the billions of dollars in profit that casinos rake in each year.

Gambling has been around for centuries. From the ancient Mesopotamia to Elizabethan England and Napoleon’s France, it has been a part of every society. It is believed that something about the opportunity to win a jackpot, whether by skill or random chance, makes humans crave the activity.

When the first large casinos opened in Nevada in the 1950s, legitimate businessmen were reluctant to invest their money, which had the taint of “vice.” Mafia figures, however, had plenty of cash from drug dealing and other illegal rackets, and they were happy to help finance the development of the Strip. They took sole or partial ownership of some casinos and were able to influence the outcomes of games by providing funds, threats of violence to casino personnel and other means.

Today’s casinos make extensive use of technology. For example, some betting chips have built-in microcircuitry that allows casinos to oversee the exact amounts wagered minute by minute and warn players of any suspicious activity; and roulette wheels are electronically monitored regularly to discover statistical deviations from their expected results. Some states regulate how many and where casino gaming establishments can be located. Other states have no such restrictions and allow a greater variety of gaming options, including horse racing, lottery games and charitable gambling.