The casino industry has come a long way since miners chasing gold in the mountains took a break to play a few hands of poker in the local card room. Today, massive casino resorts are a huge draw for tourists and Americans seeking an escape from everyday life. But casinos are more than just entertainment venues. They are business operations that make billions of dollars each year for the corporations, investors, and Native American tribes that own them. And they also provide jobs and tax revenues for state and local governments.

While musical shows, lighted fountains and lavish hotels attract visitors to the gaming floor, a casino’s main source of revenue is gambling. Slot machines, blackjack, roulette and other popular games of chance are what make casinos so lucrative. But they would not exist without the players. And while legitimate businessmen were hesitant to invest in casinos, organized crime figures saw the potential of this illegal racket and provided the necessary funds.

Casinos are social environments, designed around noise, light, and excitement. They offer a variety of games that appeal to different types of people, and their popularity has exploded. In addition to traditional table games, many casinos now feature electronic versions of classic favorites. They also offer a variety of dining options, from restaurants to quick snacks and drinks. In some cases, casino customers receive “comps”—free goods or services—based on how much they spend on games of chance and table games.