Below you will find a presentation of Keno history. More particularly, we will deal with its beginnings, origin and evolution through time, which led to its current form.

To begin with, it is important to note that Keno is a number-related game, dating as far back as 3 thousand years ago. Just like various games of chance, (Blackjack: History, Ed.) Keno originated in China. According to several sources, Cheung Leung of the Han Dynasty is credited as being the inventor of the game. Legend has it that Leung created this game of chance as a way to raise money, in an attempt to save his failing city that was involved in a multi-annual war. Others argue that the game has emerged in order to finance the construction of the Great Wall of China.

Evolution over time and variations

How similar is the original Keno version compared to its current one? It is actually confirmed that the two versions share many similarities. In fact, it was based on a poem of a thousand Chinese symbols, none of which was repeated twice. When first created, the game used 120 of the poem’s symbols which were then divided into eight groups. The winner was the first person to guess a complete group of 8 numbers. Today, a modern version of the game is played in China, containing 80 numbers instead of 120. Originally the game was called: “The game of the white dove”. The reason for this was that doves were used to carry the news of winners to remote areas. Over time, Keno became popular with people in both the main cities and the countryside. Eventually, the game gained widespread popularity across China. Lotteries were quite popular at that time around of the world, but Keno first crossed the Atlantic in the 20th century.

As you would expect, the first recipients were the Americans who were initiated into Keno by the Chinese immigrants. Its original name was “Chinese Lottery” and it could only be played by the Chinese, as the lottery tickets were bearing Chinese symbols. It was a matter of time, however, for those symbols to be replaced by numbers (around the late 19th century). After that, the game gained in popularity amongst the Americans. Although the US were quite tolerant towards gambling, in 1931 the federal government banned the lotteries in Nevada. Of course, this ban did not last long, as Keno tickets were redesigned on the basis of horse-racing tickets, where the numbers represented horses. Consequently, the game could be considered as Horse-racing.

Keno was later legalised when the government enacted a law that would tax off-track betting. Europe was its next stop, where its popularity skyrocketed!