The Dark Side of the Casino

A casino is like an indoor amusement park for adults, with a vast majority of its attractions (and profits) coming from games of chance. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, poker and more make up the vast array of casino games that attract millions of visitors each year. But there’s another side to the casino, one that’s darker than musical shows and lighted fountains.

Gambling has been around for as long as people have, with primitive protodice and carved six-sided dice found in the earliest archaeological digs. But the idea of a place where people could find all manner of gambling games under one roof didn’t emerge until the 16th century, when Italian aristocrats would hold private parties at venues called ridotti.

These days, you can visit casinos in just about every major city. From the opulent, red-and-gold rooms of Baden-Baden’s Casino to the towering Venetian Macau on the Cotai Strip, there are no shortage of casino options for those who have a taste for luxury and a hankering to try their luck.

The casino industry’s seamy reputation has made it a magnet for organized crime. Mob money flowed into Reno and Las Vegas during the 1950s, and mobsters became personally involved in the businesses, taking sole or partial ownership of some casinos. But federal crackdowns and the fear of losing a license at even the hint of mafia involvement meant legitimate businessmen were quick to move in. Now, real estate investors and hotel chains have more money than the mobsters ever had, and they run the casinos with little interference from the mob.