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History of Keno

Keno is a game that has been around for literally thousands of years, and yet it is still one of the world’s most popular games. The history of Keno dates back to 200 BC, when the Chinese Head of State, Cheung Heung, invented the game as a way to finance his many battles and wars. The story goes that Cheung Heung’s armies had been at battle for many years, and that aside from them and the citizens growing tired of what they believed was a pointless cause, they were running extremely low on money and supplies.

Cheung Heung invented the game as a way to gather extra funds for the continuance of his battles, and the game was an automatic hit among Chinese citizens. Then, players were required to choose and match 10 out of the 120 Chinese characters used in order to win. The invention of the game has been officially cited as the reason behind the victory of Cheung Heung’s forces, as well as a major contributor of funding towards the building of the Great Wall of China.

Over the years, Keno became known as the “White Pigeon Game”, because special white carrier pigeons were used to fly from town to town informing the people of the winning numbers. The arrival of the birds with the winning numbers became an event that would be the basis for one of China’s most classic poems, the “Thousand Character”. It consists of a thousand Chinese characters sung in rhyme, and although its initial purpose was to teach children, today it is commonly used as a numbering system. Over time the amount of characters would drop to 80.

Keno thrived throughout China and Asia, and it was only a matter of time before it would spread throughout the rest of the world. It was originally outlawed in America, however when the waves of new Chinese immigrants hit the US shores during the mid 1800’s, Keno flourished there too – only in secrecy. They would play in mines and on railroads (where they worked), and it eventually became known as the “Chinese Lottery”. Mainstream America gradually got to know the game too, and once it became massively popular, it was modified to integrate a numerical system instead of the Chinese characters.

In 1931, gambling was legalized in the state of Nevada. However, lotteries were not included in the listing of legalized games. In order to bypass the legal restrictions on what was then called “Chinese Lottery”, the Wild cowboys of the West changed its name to something they believed to sound inconspicuous as a lottery related game. They came up with “Horse Race Keno”, and made the game appear to mimic regular horse race wagering. When the state introduced a law to tax off-track betting, the name was again changed, yet this time, to just “Keno”, which has since stuck. With the introduction of online gambling, real money keno quickly spread to the rest of the world, and the rest is history!

May 10, 2012 - Offer valid as of date published. T&Cs apply.