The History of Keno
Keno is a classic gambling game that can be found in almost any casino, whether you’re playing in a live casino or on your favorite online casino site. Despite the fact that it’s usually not one of the best bets in the casino, it has become a very popular game because of its relaxed pace and simplistic play. You can play keno while sitting down and eating dinner, or play it in an online casino without much thought; all you need to do is pick your numbers and watch to see if they come out. What most keno players don’t realize is that keno has a very long and interesting history, some of which is historical, and parts of which are the stuff of legends.
No matter which version you believe, almost all sources are confident that the game of keno was invented in China. If you want to go by legends, a Chinese leader was looking for a way to raise more funds for a long war being waged about 3,000 years ago. As his people were already heavily burdened by taxes, he didn’t want to risk angering them by demanding they pay even more. Instead, he came up with an ingenious way to get them to voluntarily give more money to fund his campaign: the game of keno. In some of these tales, it’s said that the money earned through keno was so great that it was used to pay for the construction of the Great Wall of China.
Beyond the legends, it’s well known that various lottery games have been around for hundreds of years in many parts of the world. The first modern account of keno comes from China in 1847. At the time, keno was known as the “white pigeon” lottery, because carrier pigeons were used to inform outlying villages of the keno results after the drawings were held in a major city. The game was a little different back then; rather than pick numbers, players picked characters from “The Thousand Character Classic,” a famous Chinese poem has been used over a thousand years to teach Chinese characters to children and beginners.
In the early 20th century, Keno games started popping up on the west coast of the United States. Chinese immigrants first brought the game to San Francisco, where gambling was illegal. Despite the prohibition, underground keno games became extraordinarily popular and began to spread to other locations. As the game’s popularity increased, the traditional Chinese characters were changed to numbers to make the game easier to understand for Americans. In an attempt to get around laws that were designed to make lotteries illegal, the game was often called racehorse keno, which helped to disguise the actual nature of the game. This tradition survives today in casinos, where keno draws are often known as “races.”
In modern casinos, keno is alive and strong, and is often played by casino gamblers while they relax in a casino restaurant or even from their hotel rooms. While the game is known as a sucker bet in live casinos, online casinos offer excellent odds that make the game competitive with most table games. But no matter the odds, the rich history and simple gameplay make it likely that keno will continue to attract casino gamblers for centuries to come.