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The History of Keno

Keno History

The history of keno is a long and colorful story, originating in ancient China, passing through 19th-century California, and reaching the modern 21st-century online casino.

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Chinese Origins of Keno

The game of keno was invented by a man named Cheung Leung during the Han dynasty, around 200 B.C.E. Cheung Leung's city was at war, and Cheung Leung devised a game of chance to raise revenue for the army. The idea was that most people would lose, but the winner would win a huge jackpot. In this sense, keno was no different from the state and national lotteries that are common today.

In Cheung's original game, 120 Chinese characters were laid out on a board similar to the modern keno card. Players used a quill pen to mark their bets on the board; the term "keno spots" still refers to those marks created by the ink on the board.

After Cheung's success in saving his city, the game of keno spread throughout China. White carrier pigeons were used to carry the keno results from the cities to the outlying villages, and keno became known as the "White Pigeon Game." Revenues from keno games were used to finance the construction of the Great Wall of China.

Keno Comes to America

A great wave of Chinese immigrants came to America in the 1800s, primarily to California, and they brought their keno game with them. The immigrants shared the game with their neighbors and co-workers, and keno became popular in the United States as the "Chinese Lottery." Over time, to make the game more user-friendly for Americans, numbers were substituted for Chinese characters, and the numbers were reduced from 120 to 80. The basic rules of keno, however, remained unchanged.

In the 1930s, when casino gambling was legalized in Nevada, lotteries were left out of the legislation and remained illegal. To get around this ban, the casino owners changed the name of the "Chinese Lottery" to "Horse Race Keno" and pretended that it involved betting on horse races. Eventually, lotteries became legalized along with the other casino games, and the name was changed again to just plain Keno.

Online Keno Arrives

The 1990s saw the growth of the Internet and, with it, the development of online casinos and online keno games. People immediately saw the advantages of playing keno online. First, no more messy crayons and paper keno tickets. Second, no more running to the keno booth to cash in your winning keno ticket. In online keno, your keno winnings are automatically added to your casino account. In addition, there are all the obvious advantages relating to the comfort and convenience of playing keno from your own home when you join an online keno casino.

For all of these reasons, the availability of Internet keno brought a huge increase in the number of keno players worldwide. Some were newcomers who had never played keno or even heard of the game of keno. Others were experienced keno players who found that they enjoyed the advantages of playing keno online.

A Moment of Keno History

The next time you play keno online, pause for a moment and think about the fabulous history of this great game. Like the Great Wall of China, the game of keno has withstood the test of time and will undoubtedly be with us for many more years to come.

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