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Keno history

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Keno,is a game very similar to the big state or provincial lotteries, and is easy to play. It is one of the most popular games in any casino. The game itself was first developed in China in 187 BC by the head of state, Cheung Heung, and involved the selection of 10 out of 120 Chinese characters. Aside from that (which is also contested) the origins of the game are really a bit of a mystery as like many of these gambling games. Several different versions exist.

One theory is that Cheung Leung of the Han Dynasty introduced a game that is very similar to modern keno in about 200 BC. Apparently, Cheung's city was at war for several years and was beginning to run out of money and supplies. With the citizens refusing to contribute additional funds to this fruitless cause, Keno was born from the mind of Cheung purely to his desperate need for the necessary finances to continue his brutal battles. Fortunately for him the game appealed to the huge numbers of people under his command while simultaneously generating funds to cover his expenses. The game was a success and it is cited as a major reason for the victory of Cheung's forces. It is also credited for providing resources and helping to fund the massive undertaking of building the Great Wall!

The game soon became known as the White Pigeon game. Since carrier pigeons were used to inform surrounding towns and villages of the winning numbers. From this historical event a Chinese poem was born. It consists of a thousand numerical characters. The thousand character classic', as it is known, is a set of independent characters placed in a rhyming form. Originally it was meant as a new way for children to learn, but the poem became so well known that the characters are often now used as a romantic numbering system. So, rather than having a board of just numbers on the original keno boards, they used these characters. Originally as many as 120 characters were used in the game, and only after it left China would the number drop to a more familiar 80.

During the mid 1800's whith thousands of Chinese immigrants who came to work in the mines and on the railroads, came this game. Although initially outlawed, Keno continued to be played in secrecy by these new immigrants. Its popularity spawned the name the "Chinese lottery", mainly in cities with large Chinese populations, such as San Francisco. It only became popular to the mainstream American culture after it was modified to include the numerical system, although it kept the Chinese characters.

In classic Wild West style, when gambling was legalized in the state of Nevada in 1931 the fact that lotteries were not covered under the legislature discouraged no one. All they did was to change the name ('Chinese lottery') to something else which didn't imply a link to a a gambling or a lottery-style game. Thus, it became known as horse race keno' and simply mimic horse race bettings. As the government passed a law that taxed off-track betting, Nevada quickly changed the name again, simply to "Keno."

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