The Origin of Keno Game: From Ancient China to Modern Times

Did you know that the few games you come across every day in online casinos actually have a history of several thousand years? With an interesting story behind it, one of those is a game you must at least have once encountered - Keno.

Keno is a popular game mostly based on luck rather than skills which can be found today at land-based and online casinos. In the deep sea of casino games, this one will surely help you relax, have fun, and luckily make some money.

Here’s a history of Keno and how this game became so popular worldwide.

Origins of Keno

Origins of KenoThe rich history of Keno dates back to 3000 years ago. According to legend, Cheung Leung, the ruler of the Han Dynasty, invented it to save an ancient city from war. At the time, he had depleted all his taxation options, and the lack of money was strongly felt. So, Cheung Leung has created Keno, which allowed the residents to raise funds by participating in a lottery.

Interestingly, the game was initially known as “White Pigeon”  because the pigeons were widely used for delivering the results of the drawing to the surrounding villages and hamlets.

Keno’s origin story does not end here; it is also believed that funds raised from Keno played a key role in the construction of the Great Wall of China, one of the most staggering constructions made by human hands.

However, Keno was not exactly the same as we know it now. It has undergone a lot of changes over the years. At the time, the bets were placed on Chinese symbols instead of numbers. Also, the grid in the game was composed of 120 characters, organised into subdivisions of 8. The player who guessed the entire subdivision or combination won. This way of playing with letters instead of numbers greatly reduced the chance of winning.

Spread of Keno

Spread of KenoIn the following centuries, this very interesting game began to spread rapidly across all continents and was played by people of all classes and ages.

Namely, in the mid-80s, a large number of Chinese railroad workers immigrated to America, with them also came Keno, which quickly became popular. It served mostly as a kind of entertainment and rest after a very hard day on the construction site.

The Americans then replaced the confusing Chinese letters with numbers, and after that game became more accessible to everyone. Also, this change significantly increased the chances of profit.

Nevada is also one of the main actors behind the many changes the former “White Pigeon”  went through. While other forms of gambling were legalised in Nevada, lottery games were illegal at that time. Hence, the game received the title “Horse Race Keno”, which allowed it to be sold at casinos in Nevada.  In horse race keno, the players were required to guess which horses would win fictitious races, where the numbers were representing horses.

As the game grew in popularity, the government taxed it as off-track betting. To get around taxation, casinos took out the horse race idea and shortened the name to “Keno”. This word has French or Latin roots meaning “five winning numbers”.

Keno Today

Keno TodayDespite its extremely long history, Keno has managed to remain an incredibly fun game worldwide to this day. The fact that this game does not require any knowledge and experience explains its massive popularity among all generations.

As we know it today, the rules are very simple: Each player chooses numbers from 1 to 80, and 20 numbers are drawn randomly. A winning ticket includes matching the drawn numbers with the ones the players selected. The correct numbers a player picks and their amount determine the amount won.

Advances in technology have opened up a whole new dimension of the ancient Chinese game. Today, anyone from their phone or computer can play it at any online casino with a large number of versions of this game.

What sets Keno apart from other casino games, where you will continuously encounter barriers and risks, is its simplicity. With a very small stake, you can make huge winnings without any strategies or hacks, which attracts many new players to the game.

Some of the game variations are single card keno, multi-card keno, power keno, keno slots, mini keno and many others.


The betting industry is becoming more advanced every day; many new games have been invented while the old ones are constantly being improved. It is astonishing how the simple concept of Keno has survived for more than 3000 years among such competition around.

Today, Keno is not just an ordinary betting game; it carries an extremely long history and origin and is a symbol of a great nation and culture. This amazing story will surely change the way we look at keno, and next time we play it, we will certainly remember it.

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