What is Keno Gambling?

What is Keno Gambling?

Facts Checked
Published Date · Sept. 11, 2019 · Last Updated · April 3, 2024 ·Read Time · 3 mins

Keno is one of the oldest games you can play at an online casino. Steeped in history and tradition, keno is also a game that still works for modern players. One of the best lottery-style games, understanding Keno, and how to play can lead to lots of excitement and hopefully some nice payouts.


This comprehensive keno guide will introduce you to: the rich history of keno, how to play the game, the rules, the differences between playing online and brick-and-mortar, and the reasons why you should play this age-old game!

The History of Keno

Despite having a French/Latin name, keno has origins in China and is even woven into old legends. In fact, the story goes that the money raised by keno in ancient times helped to build the Great Wall of China.


Whether the tale is true or not is unclear, but what we do know is that Chinese lottery games like keno have been in the country since 1847. During the growth of keno, the Chinese would play by using the first 80 characters from the traditional poem The Thousand Character Classic, with players matching characters to their game papers.

The game has now become known as an income generator and a boost to economies. Since a lottery was licensed by the Portuguese leader in Macao, keno has become more popular. When Chinese immigrants arrived in Europe and the United States, they brought with them the game of keno.

Of course, lotteries were not unknown in other parts of the world, but the specifics of keno brought new elements. It is worth noting some forms of early keno in the US were more like modern bingo games and not like traditional keno.

Why is the Game Called Keno?

The modern name of keno started as a Western spelling of the traditional word meaning “white dove tickets” in Mandarin (baige piao). This is because cities would use carrier pigeons to deliver lottery tickets to outlying towns and villages. In Southern China, where Cantonese is spoken, the game is known as baak-gaap-piu or pakapoo in English.

DALL·E 2024-03-05 11.38.09 - Transform the previous image into one that looks like it was taken in the 1800s, with a vintage aesthetic. The carrier pigeon carrying lottery tickets

When it came to the United States, the game was known as the Chinese lottery, a separation from other lottery games in the country. The name 'keno' was given later and points to the gameplay as a corruption of the French word quine (“group of five”).

Keno Glossary

To make it easy for you to start playing keno online today, the following common terms will help you understand the game:

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  • All Or Nothing: A keno ticket that only allows you to win if all numbers are drawn or lose if even one number does not match
  • Blower: A perplex bubble that houses the balls before they are blown through a tube to be drawn/called
  • Call: This is the official term for when the value/number of the keno balls is revealed aloud when they are drawn
  • Catch: Similar to all or nothing, Catch means that all the numbers you select must match for you to win
  • Combination Way Ticket: A keno ticket that allows you to make more than one Straight number bet
  • Field: The whole keno board – usually consisting of 80 numbers – and any numbers that have not been marked/matched by the player
  • Keno Board: This display shows which numbers have been called in real time. It is also known as the “Big Board”
  • Keno Lounge: An area – usually in land-based casinos – where keno players can gather, relax, and watch games as they happen
  • King: A single number on the keno ticket
  • King Ticket: Any keno ticket that includes a King number
  • Number Pool: A set of numbers from which the balls are drawn. The size of the keno number pool varies depending on the type of keno game
  • Spot: Any number that the player has marked on their keno card
  • Straight Keno: A normal keno ticket where you choose the numbers you want to bet with
  • Way: An alternative to straight betting that allows you to group numbers
  • Way Ticket: A keno ticket that supports Way betting


Lucy Wynne

Content Writer


Tim Williams

Head of Content