The History of Keno - The Oldest Gambling Related Game

Thursday, Nov 15, 2007 | by CasinoGuide

Keno is quite possibly the oldest of all the gambling games that you will find at any casino, either online or off. Its roots go back to an ancient Chinese game that started over 3000 years ago. In fact, though the game has changed some since that time, it is quite surprising just how close the modern-day game is to the age-old one.

Three thousand years ago in China, the country was straining under the financial and emotional strain of a very costly war. In the many villages of the extraordinarily large country, the villagers refused to pay for anymore weapons or supplies for the war. A man named Cheung Leung decided he had to raise the money to fight the war, so he made up the game, hoping it would catch on and he could sell tickets to buy the much-needed supplies for the soldiers. His plan worked brilliantly.

The original game that Cheung invented was similar to today's Keno in that it had 80 choices to pick from. The difference is that today we pick from 80 numbers, but back then they picked from 80 characters that were based on a very popular poem called the 1000 Characters poem. It is rumored that the game started with 120 characters, though this, like much of history so old, is unconfirmed. The game was sometimes referred to as the White Pigeon Game, because carrier pigeons were used to send the results from village to village, since roads at the time were scarce or poorly routed.

The game came to the US during the railroad boom in the 1800s. As railroads were being built along the newly-settled West coast of the United States, many Chinese immigrants came to work on them and settle there. In doing so, they brought much of their culture, including Keno. In fact the game was so much a part of the new Chinese-American fabric that it was known as the "Chinese Lottery" for years.

Though the casino operators in Las Vegas heard about the popular game in the early 20th century, they actually could not legally begin to offer the game in their city. The reason- gambling was completely legal, but lotteries were not. So some casinos changed the name from "Chinese Lottery" to "Race Horse Keno", replacing the numbers with race horses. When track betting was banned, they simply changed the name to Keno, and the name has stuck.

If you would like to try a game of Keno we recommend the Spin Palace Casino.

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