Uncovering the origins of any gambling game will reveal an incredibly rich history, & Keno is no exception. Keno’s long journey across the world has shrouded its history in a thick veil of mystery. The secrecy involving its illustrious history was created by the fact that the game has evolved many times to avoid being stamped out by the law. Conflicting reports about its exotic origin in China to its many adaptations throughout history have left us with scattered pieces of its history. Fortunately when you put them all together each piece makes the story more intriguing. Today we will explore the history of Keno by following it from its roots to its wild success today.
The creation of Keno was no accident, it was an ingenious invention that financed military operations that saved China. The first reports show that the game originated in the 2nd century BC in China. The mastermind behind the creation of Keno was none other than Cheung Leung, during the Han Dynasty. Pressed for cash & facing imminent war with its neighbors, China needed a miracle. The emperor knew that the Chinese people were fed up with taxes, so they came up with an ingenious solution: Keno. The first version of Keno became a huge hit in the larger Chinese cities & generated massive sums of cash for the war effort. The popularity of the game soon spread to neighboring villages, where the results were sent out by carrier pigeons. This gave birth to its first name, “White Dove Ticket”. The flood of extra money funded many wars as well as the construction of the Great Wall of China. It went on to further strengthen the Chinese government & fueled the growth of the Chinese empire.
From there Keno transitioned from funding China’s military to entertaining railroad workers in California. In the 19th century California was flooded with Chinese immigrants who ended up working on the First Transcontinental Railroad. Along with their style of living they brought the magnificent game of Keno to American soil. At first the game was played exclusively by Chinese immigrants, however this interesting game soon caught the attention of Westerners. Soon the game’s Chinese symbols were replaced with numbers & the game exploded in popularity.
Even though Keno quickly became a favorite pastime for railroad workers, to truly branch out it had to to trick the police. Once Americans started relentlessly playing Keno the game soon attracted the attention of the law. Ironically at the time gambling was legal in the U.S. but lotteries were not. Technically Keno fell under the category of lottery, but a few innovative mutations changed that. To avoid prosecution Keno operators changed the game into “Racehorse Keno”, where every number represented a racehorse. Soon after the rules changed & Keno established itself as one of the most played games in the U.S.
Keno’s wild success in America catapulted it into becoming a worldwide money making bonanza. The beauty of its history is that the people’s love for this rogue game saved it from the police. To this day it’s passionately played by millions of players worldwide. Now that it has become a cornerstone of casinos around the globe the game has finally been accepted as a legitimate pastime.