Sunday, 4th December, 2016

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What is the History of Keno?

Keno is technically the oldest casino game of all. The concept of keno is simply a lottery under another name and with a slightly different structure. For other players, it’s like the game Bingo, but you can pick your own numbers.

The name of the game itself derives from Latin word “quini”, which means “five each”, however the game has its roots in Chinese history, rather than Roman. The game started out as a Chinese lottery of sorts and was invented by a Chinese ruled known as Cheung Leung. Cheung Leung allegedly created this lottery to help fund his city’s war chest, since the public had refused to contribute any more money. So, he created this lottery as a means of getting money to protect his city.

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The game Cheung Leung created had 120 characters and was incredibly similar to the game that we all know and love these days. These characters were taken from a rhyme known as “The Thousand Character Classic”, which was a nursery rhyme of sorts, which helped Chinese children learn numbers. Cheung Leung just took the first 120 numbers of this rhyme and used them in this lottery.

The people would then play this as a lottery we’ve all no doubt seen, players or simply heard about. Pick a combination of characters/numbers and if you get them all, you win and the treasury also gets a nice kickback into the war chest.

Of course, this is mostly hearsay and speculation, as the records from that time aren’t exactly detailed or even complete, as I’m sure you can imagine. However, the idea that keno came from old lotteries makes perfect sense and I wouldn’t be surprised it the Chinese had come up with it, like they have so many things over the years. Whether Cheung Leung is the man who invented it is perhaps the main point of procrastination, but it’s not worth getting hung up about.


Now, this game has not evolved much, as I’m sure you can imagine. In terms of the different games, such as bingo, lotteries and keno, the only real difference is that the amount of characters or numbers you can choose from has changed from 120, to varying numbers. For example, bingo has 90 numbers, while keno has 80 numbers and various lotteries around the world has many different amounts of numbers.

How it came to American shores and, in particular, Las Vegas, is another matter altogether. The idea is that Chinese immigrants brought the game to European and American shores, where their game of “baige piao” caught on and eventually became keno and bingo and lotteries.

If that wasn’t proof that the Chinese are perhaps the finest gamblers out there, I don’t know what is. Introducing such a simple game all those years ago and it’s managed to stay the same, more or less, ever since.

If you’d like to play Keno online and see the ultimate evolution of Keno, I’d highly recommend checking out WinADay Casino who offer the multi card keno game, “Power” Keno. It’s truly amazing looking back at Keno in its infancy and where it has evolved to now.

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Additional Keno History Questions:

What’s the difference between Keno and the lottery?

Really just the numbers. Most lotteries only go up to 49 numbers while Keno generally will have 80 numbers. Also you get to choose the amount of numbers you want to actually bet in Keno while every other lottery has a restriction as to how many numbers you can bet – always a certain amount.

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The answer to the question What is the History of Keno? is also applicable for the following questions:

How did Keno start? Who created Keno? What was the beginning of Keno? When did Keno come online? When did Keno start in America? Who invented Keno?

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