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 Keno History

It's always a good idea to get familiar with the origins of the game before attempting to understand it; it gives us a bit of a background as well as an answer to some of our whys and hows and the reasoning behind the game. Although not the most popular game around, keno has been played for a long time and its history is quite interesting; it might just have the richest history of any casino game.

According to an ancient scroll, keno history started in China over 2000 years ago. It was a man named Cheung Leung who invented this game of chance wanting to save his city. With the residents refusing to give any more financial support towards the war fund, the army quickly ran out of supplies and the city was in danger. Leung's game produced enough revenue to supply his army with all that they needed, and so the city was saved. In the years that followed, the game spread vastly throughout China, and raised enough money to fund the building of the Great Wall, which has become a world-renowned wonder. The game became known as the White Pigeon Game because pigeons were used to communicate the winning results of the game from the greater cities to the small villages in the country.

Old Keno TicketLeung's version of the game differed slightly from the one we know and enjoy nowadays. Instead of using the numbers 1 through 80 on the ticket, each field was represented with a character, all of which were taken from the famous poem 'The Thousand Character Classic'. Many years ago, the poem was used as a means of teaching children reading and writing skills. The fact that not one of the thousand characters was mentioned more than once was recognized as a great achievement. The characters were organized in a way that rhymed and made the poem easier to remember but being able to recite it on your own was a skill in itself. The poem was so popular throughout China that some people used it as a way of counting from one to a thousand. So, having used the first 80 characters from the poem, Leung did in fact use one through eighty as they are represented today.

The history of keno in North America started with the Chinese immigrants who worked on the railroads. As part of their customs and individuality, they brought the game over to keep themselves entertained and to carry on some of their Chinese traditions. At first, the game was illegal because of the anti-gambling laws; still, it was very popular among the Chinese immigrants, where it was known as Chinese lottery. When the country legalized most types of gambling in 1931 though still not lotteries, the name was simply changed to 'horse race keno', suggesting that the numbers were horses and you were betting on the one that would come in. The game's association with horse racing earned it the name 'racing game', which is still largely used among keno operators today. A few years later, the American government decided to tax off-track betting, so the name was changed once again to offer a better profit. And that's how the game got its name - Keno.

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