Keno is one of the oldest of gambling games still being played today, and its history can be traced back almost two thousand years to the time of the great Han Dynasty of China around 200 BC. Keno was invented by Cheung Leung, and, according to The Gambling Games of the Chinese in America, this game of chance was introduced to raise revenues and provisions for the army.


Keno was popular from the very beginning, raising thousands of pieces of silver to support the army and maintaining its popularity to the present time. The earliest form of keno was played in Chinese and contained 120 Chinese ideograph characters, drawn from the Thousand Character Book. This book has been said to have been written by Confucius and his followers and is considered a classic work know to most Chinese.


As the game evolved, the characters were gradually decreased to ninety and the keno game continued to be played in this manner for many centuries. When the game was brought to America the number of characters where decreased to eighty characters, and has remained at eighty to this day.


By the 1890's, the game increased popularity amongst Chinese immigrants in America. A new keno play was invented during this period, the ten-number ticket, now known as the ten-spot ticket.


The payoffs at this time where as follows:      


Catch Spots



2 for 1


20 for 1


200 for 1


1000 for 1


1500 for 1


3000 for 1


Catch spots are those numbers selected at random by the operator of the keno game and matched on the keno player's ticket.


Gradually, the game evolved from using Chinese characters to Arabic numbers 1-80 to enable play by Americans.


To select the winning numbers, which were originally printed on small wooden balls, the operators first stirred and selected the keno balls by hand and then randomly introduced them into a keno goose, a long tube that resembled a goose's neck. Obviously this presented multiple opportunities for collusion between players and those selecting the numbers.


Today a goose is still used, however the numbers are imprinted on ping-pong balls, stirred by air and then randomly forced up two transparent tubes, one at a time, without being touched by the operator of the game.


When Nevada legalized gambling, keno was one of the games immediately introduced and was known as racehorse keno. This allowed for the imprint of the number and the name of a racehorse.


In 1951 when the United States government passed a law taxing off-track betting on horses it caused the tracks to remove the horses from the keno game, since racehorse keno may be construed as off-track betting, the racehorse names were removed and hence was born the keno game of today!