Keno originated during the Han Dynasty of ancient China in about 200 B.C. Legend says that the keno was invented to finance a war. The citizens were either unwilling or unable to continuously pay for the supplies and weapons and the war seemed without end.
Then Cheung thought of a game with a very large payout on a small investment, but with a large house edge. Everyone wanted to take the chance of getting rich quick and put up the investment. After making the promised payout sufficient funds were available for the war effort.
The game was later repeated when funds were required to build the Great Wall of China. Soon the game became so popular that it was being played without any external need. The winning symbols were drawn in cities and were sent to the towns and villages by courier pigeons. This led to the game being called “White Pigeon Game”.
In the 19th century Chinese labor was brought to America to build the trans-continental railroad. They brought the game of keno with them. The game at time was still being played with Chinese characters and therefore the Americans called it “Chinese Lottery”.
The French in America began to call the game “quine” for the five winning numbers. This was corrupted to keno. For American consumption the Chinese characters were changed to Arabic numerals.
Modern day keno was first played in bingo halls. Tickets were bought from a booth where they were marked. Twenty numbers were called out one at a time so that players could match them on their tickets. The tickets were then presented to the booths for collecting the winnings. Keno played this way was more a social outing than a gambling event. It was only with the advent of electronic technology that the gambling aspect of keno became popular. Tickets were generated by the computer and the player would mark them using a mouse.
Then the computer would instantly generate the twenty random numbers, compute the payout due to the player and credit his account. Internet gaming further increased the popularity of keno.
Players now do not require ticket booths, number callers or even other players. If there is something that has not changed it is the high payouts with high house edges, which make keno a money spinner for online casinos.