However, the official version has it that Keno has been around for over 3,000 years now. Apparently, the game originated in China, and was invented by a ruler of the great Han Dynasty of China, Cheung Leung. There is an interesting story about how Cheung Leung came out with the game of Keno, which we will look at briefly here.
That was when he came up with a game, somewhat like the Keno we play today, which had its basis in a poem from that time, The Thousand Character Classic. That was a poem that was a popular way of learning about counting, using a thousand Chinese symbols, each of them unique. The poem, by the way, continues to be popular for counting even today.
Zhou Xingsi wrote the poem using 250 phrases, each with four characters. The game used 120 of these, with each subdivision having eight characters. The game was to be able to guess an entire eight-character subdivision accurately, and anyone who could do this would win 10 taels, a form of currency in China. The game is popular even today in China, though the number of characters has been cut to 80 now.
With this game, as the story goes, Cheung Leung was able to raise enough funds and resources to carry on the war. People continued to play the game, giving it the name Game of the White Pigeon, as people employed the services of doves to convey messages related to wins and losses in the game. The popularity of the game was such that it was used to raise money for the biggest construction project in China in those times, The Great Wall of China.
In 1931, Nevada legalized gambling, although the ban on lotteries remained. Keno, which the federal government recognized as a lottery, continued to be underground. The workaround came when enterprising operators switched the name of the game, calling it racehorse keno. They had a horse represent each number, and it was in that form the game first took off officially in the United States.
The game switched back to its original name once the government introduced taxes for off-track betting and legalized keno. Even today, many casinos prefer calling individual games 'races'.