History and Origins of Keno Explained

KENO Updated on: 6 September 2018

The Chinese have the special honor of being considered the originators of keno. But that was 3,000 years ago, and between then and now, this game has undergone quite a transformation. A ruler from the Han dynasty, known as Cheung Leung, is credited with creating this lottery-like game, and for very pressing reasons.

At the time, this ruler’s city was overrun during a major protracted war. Its resources were running out, and the leadership needed a way to raise money. It was also clear at the moment that extra taxation would simply not work since that would cause disquiet among the people – heavy taxation had already been imposed on the people to help the city stay afloat.

The solution for Cheung Leung became the invention of a game that would help the authorities raise funds from the people. The funds raised from this game would be used to finish the war. At the time, the game also had an educational bent, which is far from what we know about it today. It was based on a Chinese poem that could be used to learn one thousand Chinese characters.

However, the game version did not include all thousand Chinese characters in the famous poem. Instead, it kept this number to 250, although that number still proved a little tedious, resulting in a further reduction of the characters to 120.

The game’s design involved the categorization of these characters into groups of 8. To get a win, the player had to get one of these groups of characters correct. Apparently, pigeons were used to send the game results to each of the towns in which the game was played, and this inevitably led to the game being called the “Game of the White Pigeon.”

But some people think this is all made up, that the game might have an entirely different historical origin. Maybe this is because the name of this game has both Latin and French origins. The French word quine means “five winning numbers”, while the word quini in Latin means “five each”. Still, there are those who see this historical account as the gospel truth; and this group of people point out the fact that this game was quite popular in China in the 18th and 19th century before spreading to the rest of the world.

Later on, the game of keno was used to raise funds to help build the Great Wall of China. But this might be just a legend, since historical accounts have nothing to say about a lottery game being used to raise funds to build the Great Wall. Furthermore, Chinese lottery did not get legally accepted in China until the 1800’s, which was after the wall was put up; which puts this bold claim into question.

1. History of Modern Keno

Keno came into America with the help of Chinese immigrants. These Chinese people sailed to America during the Californian Gold Rush. But when the Americans saw the game and realized how easy it was, they started playing it as well; and it became quite popular. This was despite the fact that other similar games were quite popular in America as well.

At the time, gambling laws were not very permissive, and the game had to be played in secret. It was while in this hidden world that the game underwent the changes that gave it its modern design. For one, in place of the Chinese symbols, numbers were used so that Americans had an easier time with the game because they did not understand Chinese characters. Secondly, the quantity of numbers was lowered to just 80 numbers.

Another major change was the introduction of the rule that said that players had to choose between 4 and 10 numbers. There were other rules dictating the range of numbers players could choose, but this was the most common. Furthermore, the person making the draw had to select 20 numbers out of 80 numbers, and this was to happen at random.

Later on, when the rules changed up a little bit, Nevada casinos introduced the game to their customers. Actually, these gaming establishments had to use a workaround since lottery games were still illegal. The casinos decided to name the game “Horse Race Keno”, so that they could present it as a fictional horse race, with each of the numbers representing a horse.

Obviously, when the US finally legalized lottery games, the casinos changed the name back to keno, although this change was facilitated by the fact that the government decided to tax off-track horse racing, and classifying this game as a lottery game helped them circumvent this inconvenience. But there are still remnants of the name Horse Race Keno in real casinos today. For instance, there are casinos that will call each draw a race, while others might still call keno game a horse race.

The game could also have the name Chinese Lottery today, but the casinos could not do this even after gambling was legalized in 1930’s because the game would still fall beyond the gambling legislations of the period. The only option was to call it keno, and this is the name that eventually stuck since the game spread to the rest of the world under this title. So, wherever you go in the world today, you will usually find this game being offered under this name.

History of Online Keno

Sooner or later, keno would finally assume an electronic format. Like many other games, it eventually ended being a popular online casino game. That’s why today the game has become so popular in the online world, where its entertainment quality has gone even higher than it has ever been.

The online keno game does not demand too much attention. In physical keno games, you might have a winning ticket but have some mistake or another keep you from cashing in your winnings. Over the web, the computer will compare your numbers to those drawn by the casino automatically and credit your account with your winnings.

Clearly online keno is much easier to play, but the rules of regular keno still apply to this game. The one other advantage of online keno is that tickets are much cheaper, and the winnings much better. This makes the game a lot more rewarding than it has ever been in traditional casinos, which is a good thing because keno does not have very good winning odds in comparison to other casino games.

However, players still manage to win great amounts of money using this game by using proper keno winning strategies. Gameplay options such as the jackpot also mean that you can take home a big amount of cash after playing this game.