There are a few stories about the origin of Keno but in reality Keno’s history is a small piece of mystery. Sad to say, the truth that lies behind the history of Keno is just an issue of belief. Around 200 BC, a game comparable to Keno was introduced by Cheung Leung of the Han Dynasty as pointed out by the ancient Chinese scrolls. For several years, the city where Cheung lived in was at war and supplies were starting to run out. According to rumors, the citizens begged to be excused from contributing money to the war fund. For this reason, a game of chance was made up by Cheung in order to generate revenue for the army. The game, apparently a numbers game just like Keno, played a great role in saving the city and instantly became a success. Swiftly spreading out all through China, the game of Keno also generated enough funds to help in the construction of the Great Wall of China. The game of Keno used to be known as the White Pigeon Game since the winning numbers from the Keno games in the larger cities used to be sent by pigeons to hamlets and small towns.
A Chinese poem of a thousand numbers is the heritage created by this Keno history. Keno’s Thousand Character Classic is a rhymed form of a set of independent characters. In the beginning, the poem for Keno was a method for children to gain knowledge about numbers. But the Keno inspired poem is so popular that the characters are used as a quixotic numbering system time and again. Soon enough, the characters in the Keno rhyme were used to replace the board of just numbers on the original Keno boards. Only after Keno left China would the number jump down to 80 to make it more familiar. In the game of Keno, as many as 120 characters were used originally.
After that point, the story about Keno becomes a little boring. The most common theory is that the game of Keno was brought in by Chinese immigrants when they helped in the construction of the railroad in the old west. Keno was endlessly played by the Chinese immigrants even if it was illegal. Keno later gained the name Chinese lottery around cities like San Francisco. Chinese characters were still used that’s why Keno was not quite successful when introduced to the mainstream North American culture. Until the end of the 19th century, there was no further evolution in the game of Keno until familiar numbers replaced the Chinese characters.
Keno’s famous name Chinese lottery was changed to ‘horse race keno’ so it was no longer a lottery. This was due to the fact that lotteries were not covered under the legislature that legalized gambling in the state of Nevada in 1931. Again, the name was quickly changed to just ‘Keno’ because a law was passed in the government of Nevada where track betting was taxed off. Keno really has quite a colorful history if you try to look back and discover its past.