Keno, a game that is very similar to the lottery is very easy to play and that’s probably why this is one of the more popular casino games. General Cheung Leung from China, developed this game from 10 out of 120 Chinese characters. Apart from this historical detail, the true origins of the game remain a mystery.
The most plausible theory is that Cheung Leung of the Han dynasty in China, introduced a game very similar to Online Keno around the year 200 BC. It seems that the city controlled by Cheung, at war for several years, was threatened by a shortage of money and supplies. Citizens therefore refused to contribute more to this cause and Cheung’s found another way to raise funds to continue to finance these military operations. He then had the brilliant idea to invent a game that quickly became the favorite of all his subjects and he raised money to contribute to the war. The immediate success of the game could even be contributed to the success of the Cheung forces. Legend says that he even helped to finance the monumental project of building the Great Wall of China!
The game quickly became known as “White Pigeon” as carrier pigeons were used to inform the towns and villages surrounding of the winning numbers. There’s a Chinese poem dedicated to this historic event. This classic poem, a thousand characters, is a suite of independent characters that rhyme. Rather than having only one table filled with numbers, players of the era used these famous characters from the poem. Initially, the game used up to 120 characters, and only when the game left China did it become 80 characters, as the Online Keno game we know today.
The game arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1800s with the thousands of Chinese immigrants looking for work in mines and on construction sites of railways. Although initially prohibited, Keno was played secretly by these immigrants. The growing popularity of the game, especially in cities with large Chinese populations like San Francisco, is said to have given the game its name “Chinese lottery“. The game continued however to use Chinese characters.
When gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, the lottery was not affected by this new legislation, but that didn’t discourage anyone. The game grew further in popularity and evolved to what we recognise today as online keno.