In the world of gambling, few games have a history as rich and fascinating as Keno. With its origins dating back thousands of years to ancient China, Keno has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from a simple lottery-style game to becoming a popular staple in modern-day hawkplay casinos. In this article, we will delve into the incredible journey of Keno, tracing its roots and exploring how it has captured the imagination of gamblers across the globe.

Ancient Chinese Beginnings:

To truly understand the origins of Keno, we must travel back in time to ancient China during the Han Dynasty (around 205 BC). It is believed that Keno was initially created to raise funds for the construction of the Great Wall of China. Legend has it that Cheung Leung, a ruler at the time, introduced a lottery-style game known as “The White Pigeon Game” or “Bai Bu,” which laid the foundation for what we know today as Keno.

The game involved selecting characters from a set of 120 symbols, which were drawn using pigeons. It quickly gained popularity among the Chinese population, not only for its entertainment value but also for its potential to generate substantial revenue.

Keno’s Journey to the West:

Keno’s path to global recognition began when Chinese immigrants took the game with them to the United States during the 19th century. Initially known as the “Chinese Lottery,” it found a home in various Chinatown communities. As time passed, the game underwent several transformations, including the addition of numbers to replace the traditional Chinese characters.

In order to appeal to a wider audience, the game was eventually renamed “Keno,” which is believed to have been derived from the French word “quine,” meaning “five winning numbers.” The game quickly gained popularity in the gambling hotspots of San Francisco and later spread to other parts of the country.

Modern-Day Keno:

With the rise of legalized gambling in the mid-20th century, Keno made its way into mainstream casinos, becoming a prominent feature alongside other popular games like blackjack and roulette. The game’s simplicity and the allure of potentially substantial winnings attracted a wide range of players, from casual gamblers to seasoned casino enthusiasts.

In its modern form, Keno typically involves selecting numbers from a grid ranging from 1 to 80. Players can choose anywhere from a few numbers to a maximum of 20, depending on the specific casino’s rules. Once the bets are placed, 20 numbers are drawn randomly using a random number generator (RNG) or a physical ball drawing machine. Payouts are based on the number of matches between the chosen numbers and the numbers drawn.

The game’s evolution didn’t stop there. With the advent of online casinos and mobile gaming, Keno found a new virtual home, allowing players to enjoy the game from the comfort of their own homes or on the go. Online variants of Keno often come with additional features, such as multi-race options, bonus games, and progressive jackpots, further enhancing the gameplay experience.


From its humble beginnings in ancient China to its current status as a popular casino game worldwide, Keno has certainly come a long way. Its enduring appeal can be attributed to its simplicity, the potential for significant winnings, and the thrill of chance. Whether you’re a history buff or a passionate gambler, Keno’s incredible journey serves as a reminder of the timeless nature of games and their ability to transcend time and culture. So next time you step into a casino or play online, take a moment to appreciate the rich heritage behind the game of Keno and the centuries of excitement it has provided to countless players.

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