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There is hardly a top casino in Australia or around the world that does not offer the game of keno. This simplistic real-money game has been played for years and remains popular even today with the rise of online casinos.

Exploring the history of any game, casino-based or otherwise, helps unearth the mysteries associated with it. Keno has evolved through the centuries, traveling from place to place to become what it is today. Here, the historical origin of keno is explored, and we get to see how it became so popular in Australia.

history of keno


Keno Origin in Ancient China


Historical data has traced keno game history to ancient China. It is believed that emperor Cheung Leung, the emperor of the Han dynasty, invented the now-popular game about three thousand years ago (2nd century BC) when the city was under siege and pressed for cash. China at the time needed a miracle to survive. Knowing that the people of the city were fed up with the excessive taxation, Cheung Leung thought up a brilliant idea – to invent a game and use his power of foreclosure to raise money.


The game invented by the emperor became an instant hit amongst the chinese people, particularly in the larger cities. Gambling houses obtained permission from political authorities to organize the game, and were taxed on the profits generated. Its popularity in the larger cities helped generate lots of money directed towards war efforts, construction of the great wall of China and the expansion of the CHinese empire.


The popularity of the game soon spread to the smaller ities in China. The main gameplay occurred in the large cities, while the results were sent out to players in these smaller cities using carrier pigeons. Hence, the origin of its first name as “baige piao” or “pai-ko p’iao,” translating to “white pigeon ticket.” While preceding keno, beige piao was intricately different. For one, instead of revolving around numbers as in today’s game, the original game grid was made up of 120 ideograms obtained from the Chinese literature classic, Qianziwen “Book of a Thousand Characters,” split into 8 subdivisions. For players to win, they had to guess correctly all the characters that made up a whole subdivision or a combination of characters within the given subdivision. This rule made winning particularly more difficult than it is in the modern version of the game. To this day, some Chinese casinos play on the same rules used in the ancient game.




Numerous sources report Chinese immigrant workers arriving in North America in the mid-19th century, to work on the first Transcontinental railroad in California. These immigrant workers would bring with them their game of beige paio which at first did not gain popularity with their Western counterparts. Howver, with time, fellow railroad workers began to develop interest in a game they found very entertaining and that would lead to them giving this game the name “Chinese lottery.” This game would attract players from all over America and its popularity would frow from there.


To accommodate for its new audience, baige paio had evolved greatly. THe most notable evolutions came in form of changing the ideograms to numbers, and then reducing the number of grids from 120 to 80, with winning dependent on guessing a line correctly. By the 1930s, the name keno had become popularized across North america and by the 1950s, keno had become standardized with the current format and rules as we know it. However, despite its wide popularity across America in the 19th/20th centuries, keno had some challenges.


At the time, gambling was permitted in America, but lottery was not. Since keno fell under the category of lottery, law enforcement personnels clamped down on casinos where it was played and thus, it took time for keno to relay be established among land-based casinos at the time. However, with a few tweaks, casino owners were able to offer keno to customers. Most notably, racehorse betting houses in Nevada disguided the game as a form of horse race, calling it “Horse Race Keno.” In place of number or ideograms, these houses used the fictional race horces on each grid, and players had to get all horses in a line right in order to win. By the 1960s, the laws changed in the U.S. allowing keno to expand to become one of the most popular games in the world.




Following keno’s wide populrity in North America, it soon expanded to all parts of the world, including Australia. The exact moment when keno entered Autalia is not known. However, it’s popularity can be traced to the early 1990s when keno became popular in registered clubs in New South Wales. Soon enough, keno expanded to other Australian states and territories.


Keno was introduced in VIctoria in 1994 under the brand of Club Keno, a joint venture owned by Tatts Group Limited and Tabcorp Holdings Limited. All keno games within Australia today are regulated by South Australian Lotteries.


Keno has become very popular around Australia today, with big companies such as Tabcorp Holdings and Intralot running casinos that offer keno all across the country.


In January 2023, KenoGO was launched in Australia, having the largest Keno Jackpot in all of Australia. KenoGO is licensed by the Victorian government, allowing players to enjoy Keno gameplay on the go. Users are able to choose from four types of gameplay – Classic, Bonus, Jackpot and Heads or Tails.




Keno has evolved considerable since its early days in China to become one of the world’s most popular casino games. During this time, it has maintained its enjoyability and appeal to people of all status.


This continuous revolution has led to the birth of KenoGO, the biggest Keno Jackpot in all of Australia. So, do well to take advantage of it and enjoy one of the world’s simplest and most enjoyable games.




Where is Keno Originally from?

Keno hame history can be traced back to ancient China where it was invented as a means to make money to fund war efforts in China


How Old is Keno?

Keno originated in the 3rd century BC, making it around 2300 years old


Who Founded Keno?

Keno was founded by emperor Cheung Leung, emperor of the Han dynasty in 3rd Century B.C


Why is Keno so Popular in Australia?

Keno is popular among gamblers in Australia for various reasons. These include; its simplicity both for beginners and experts, its self-paced and fun nature, and most importantly, its ready availability.