History of Keno

Translated from German by Patryk Czemarnik

The history of Keno goes back thousands of years. This game comes from ancient China. It came to America with Chinese immigrants in the nineteenth century, from where it went to traditional casinos and those online around the world.

Ancient Chinese Keno

Keno has its roots in China. It is believed that the game was developed by Cheung Leung. It was noted that during the war, Cheung refused to provide further financial assistance to the army because he was afraid of his own death. Leung invented Keno as a way to raise money for the army and his hometown. Thanks to Keno, he raised enough money to enable the army to defeat enemies.

Leung developed Keno on the basis of the ancient “Poem of a thousand characters”. The poem consisted of a thousand different characters in the rhymed form. In time, the children learned to write thanks to him. Leung used 120 characters of the original poem and placed them on a board similar to a lotto coupon. Players marked at least 10 numbers on the coupon using black ink. The term “Keno Spots” refers precisely to these ink markers. The characters in the poem have extraordinary meanings, such as clouds, dew and a stupid loser, but the game is not about losing so there shouldn’t be many of them. Legends say that the card with all the signs from Keno is a reflection of Yin and Yang, good and evil.

After Leung’s success in saving his city, the game spread to other cities and villages all over China. Legend has it that the profit from Keno was used to finance the Great Wall of China. In China, the game gained the nickname “Big White Dove Game” because the game results were sent to other cities using white racing pigeons. The game was so popular that the men were waiting until late at night for the arrival of white pigeons with the results of keno. Over time, the number of characters was reduced from 120 to 90. When the game reached the United States in the late 1850s, the number of characters decreased to 80.

Keno reaches America

Keno came to America with a wave of Chinese immigrants working on the railways. Although gambling was forbidden, it was very popular among them. The largest cluster of Chinese immigrants was in the San Francisco area and here Keno blossomed first. Immigrants relaxed while playing Keno at the end of hard work. For people who did not speak Chinese, Keno’s characters were difficult and incomprehensible, which is why they were turned into Arabic numbers. Thanks to this, game has become popular also among the English-speaking population. This was the real start of Keno in the United States.

Although gambling was legalized in the United States in 1931, lotteries remained illegal. In order not to get out of business, avid Keno players changed the name of the game to “Race Horse Keno”, leaving the impression that they are horse races. Any number that the player chose was probably a bet on a horse. Thanks to that, you could keep playing at Keno even though the lotteries were banned. To this day, one of the keno rounds is called a race. However, the government has not given way making Race Horse Keno a taxable game. After legalizing the lottery, Keno returned to its former form.

Keno’s first steps in casinos

Keno was introduced to casinos at the beginning of the 20th century. Initially, 80 numbers were written on paper, which were then rolled up and placed in tubes. At the beginning of the game, 20 numbers were removed from the tubes, which were the winning numbers. Over time, pieces of paper in the tubes were replaced with wooden balls with carved numbers. These wooden balls were called peas.

Later, the owner of the casino Warren Nelson from Nevada developed a system of drawing balls from a rotating cage. Nelson opened his own casino in Nevada in 1936, where you could play in Keno. Casinos are still playing in Keno on the basics invented by Nelson. In 1963, Keno’s total profit was limited to $ 25,000. In 1979, this amount increased to $ 50,000. Today, each casino has its own limit.

As with any good game, technology played an important role in the development of Keno. Computers have helped make it more efficient and faster. Currently, there are quite a few casinos in which you can play it online. Of course, Keno is also spreading on the Internet. Along with the online boom in the 90s, there was an attack on online casinos, which are becoming more and more popular due to the simplicity of the game.

Internet Keno Casino

Keno was introduced to online casinos at the same time when such casinos were created. Thanks to its unusual history, keno is one of the most popular games. Keno online looks just like traditional keno. A board with 80 numbers where the player can choose 15 numbers. After starting the game, the bubble lands on the winning numbers. The player’s win depends on how many of his chosen numbers are hit.

Each time we start the game, we learn what chance we have to win. The minimum keno bets are much lower than in traditional casinos, making them more affordable for the average player. Today, millions of people are playing online keno.

It’s unbelievable that people are still playing a game that’s over 3,000 years old. Once again it shows that the Chinese know exactly what they are doing to create different kinds of things. Although the characters from the Chinese poem may not be understood today, the Chinese Wall built thanks to keno is still a testimony to the glory of this game.

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