Origins of Keno
The Keno story can be divided into two parts: ancient and modern.
Ancient Keno History
Around the year 200 BC, ancient Chinese scrolls tell of a ruler, Cheung Leung of the Han Dynasty, who invented a game similar to Keno. The story goes that Leung's city was engulfed in war for many years and running out of money and supplies.
The myth states that the citizens of Mr. Leung's city no longer wanted to contribute to war funds.
To raise money for supplies, Mr. Leung invented a game very similar to Keno, except instead of using 80 numbers he used 120 symbols. The game was an instant success and helped save the city.
Keno is also rumored to help fund the building of the Great Wall.
In ancient China, Keno used to be known as the White Pigeon game. Apparently, carrier birds were used to deliver the winning numbers from the big city to the small village.
Modern Keno History
Keno came into America with Chinese immigrants, many of whom settled on the West Coast in places like San Francisco during the middle of the 19th century. With this influx of immigrants came an abundance of Chinese culture.
The game continued to be played in America and soon it became known as the 'Chinese lottery.'
At first, Keno had problems penetrating mainstream America, mainly because the 'Chinese lottery' was still played with symbols. As the lottery evolved into its current numbers form its popularity exploded.
Gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931; however, lotto was not legal in casinos. To bypass the law, casinos changed the name from the 'Chinese lottery' to 'horse racing keno.' The idea was that instead of lotto a player had to choose a horse with a number and hope that the horse came in when randomly selected.
Soon the state government created a law taxing off-track gambling and the sharpies in the Nevada casinos had to quickly adapt. They changed the name again, this time to simply Keno, or online Keno, which is what the game is called today.
Keno has one of the more evolved histories out of any casino game.