The exact origins of Keno are hard to pinpoint, but it seems to have originated in China as a lottery style game. It’s believed that this precursor to modern Keno helped raised funds that assisted cities in attaining much needed financial support during times of war, and also is said to have helped fund the construction of the Great Wall of China, which stretches for over 13 000 miles! The budget for this wall must have cost quite a few Keno tickets…
This lottery game eventually spread to the west through Chinese immigrants who played a version of the game called, in English pronunciation, Pakapoo. It was introduced to both American and Australian ports. It became immensely popular and it was soon rebranded as Keno, a westernised version of the original Chinese game.
There is evidence of the original version of Keno being played in China for many years but it was first officially recorded in 1847. The then Portuguese government in control of the Chinese region of Macao granted official licences to Pakapoo operators and thus documented the first official mention of the game. Operators were said to have tied the Keno results to a dove and sent them from the big cities to the smaller villages. Appropriately, the Chinese name for the game translates to “White Dove Ticket”.
The Spread of Pakapoo
When the game spread to Western countries via sailors around Australia and New Zealand and rail workers for the transcontinental railway in America, it became an instant hit. Once the gamblers at the ports in Australia, and San Francisco picked up the game, its popularity grew rapidly.
The game was so popular that Australians have a saying “it looks like a Pakapoo ticket” which means illegible writing. This is in reference to the original Chinese characters that would appear on the lottery tickets.
The Westernisation Of Pakapoo
Since its first official registration in 1847, it only took 19 years for Pakapoo to be known in Texas in 1866 as a rebranded game called Keno with Arabic numerals instead of the original Chinese characters. The name Keno originated from the French term “quine”, which means five winning numbers. The game was popular with a wide variety of people and managed to have crossover appeal amongst both men and women.
Over the years keno became a hugely popular game in pubs, casinos and other gaming arenas. By the time it went online it had a huge following and today you can even enjoy playing on the go!