Who Invented Keno?

keno in china

Keno is one of the most famous and often played casino games of all, and has been for many years. Walk into any casino in the world and you will likely find a keno game to play, and the same is true in the constantly growing world of online casinos, too.

Most people know how keno is played, though, with a familiar and easy to learn format that has players picking between 1 and 20 numbers to play, then crossing their fingers as numbered balls are randomly chosen (usually 20 in all out of a possible 80 balls) and seeing how many of the numbers they correctly guessed. The more, the better, of course, with a perfect 20 out of 20 keno card being the stuff of legend…and millionaires.

Where did the game come from, though? Who invented it, and was it always played the way that it is today? Did it start in casinos, bingo halls, or in the streets somewhere in some form? Let’s look at the history of this well-known casino game.

Many mistakenly believe that keno comes from France because the word “keno” itself has French origins (as well as Latin). However, what most people don’t know is that the game likely originated in China, not France.

There are legends that give varying accounts of where the game may have come from, including that the game itself generated enough money to build the Great Wall of China. This seems unlikely, though, especially since lotteries weren’t used to build government buildings or resources until years after the wall was built.

It was in the mid 1800s that lottery games began being played by many people in China, and supposedly, results of the games were transmitted via carrier pigeons. The games were played with sheets that had characters, though not necessarily numbers.

The game started to spread when Chinese immigrants brought it with them to the Wild West when they were building railroads in the later 19th century. Somehow, as the game traveled from person to person, it picked up a new name: “keno”. By the 1860s, cowboys were playing keno in Texas, and the game was a part of not just Chinese, but American tradition.

Today, keno is enjoyed not just in China and the United States, but all over the world, in places such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, and yes, France. It’s hard to imagine a casino in the world that wouldn’t have at least some form of keno to be played, whether it would be a high roller’s casino in Las Vegas or a typical casino in Australia.

Online casinos have the same basic game available as the traditional casinos do, but there are a few changes that have to be made, such as having the numbers selected via a random number generator instead of using physical balls that are selected randomly. Otherwise, the game is about the same, with perhaps more variations online than in real-life casinos.

From ancient China to the rest of the world and even the Internet, keno has spread greatly in the past few hundred years. Keno has made many into millionaires and given just about everyone who has ever played it at least one or two good stories to tell.

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