It is hard to say where Keno actually came from. There are several stories in history that suggest one origin over the other. The fact is we may never know, but scholars have narrowed down the field of question with intense study. Most believe that Keno is derived from ancient China. There were tales and written accounts during the Han Dynasty suggesting that Cheung Leung started the game as far back as 200 BC. The theory is that Keno was started as a way to help the city prosper during the war time when supplies were limited and people needed food. The game was to raise food or money for the army. The truth is when you look at this ancient game it is like Keno in several aspects.
The game was completely helpful and began to move throughout the rest of China. It was supposedly a game used to get funds for the Great Wall. The game later evolved so that the winnings and numbers were passed around by Pigeons to players in the field of battles or other cities. It was renamed White Pigeon Game because of this aspect.
Poems have also told of the Keno game derived from Chinese culture. In fact Keno was used to help children learn according to the studies on the history of Keno. Though it was a game the characters used allowed the children to learn a little easier. The boards in China still use the original characters, though there are now only 80 rather than 120.
History is ripe with tales and from the tale of the Chinese we move to a more uninteresting section of the Keno history. With the advent of the railroad in China the game began to spread even further around Asia and eventually reached other countries. By this time gambling was illegal in China so many had to seek underground options or move out of the area. It is said that from the illegal aspect of the game many transported it to places such as San Francisco. Today you will see a lottery game in the Chinese district of San Francisco mirrored on Keno. The United States didn't take this game seriously in the 1800's as much as we do now. In fact many casinos reintroduced the game Keno such as Las Vegas, in the last 20 years.
The characters on the cards were of course replaced with the numbers rather than characters so that more and more individuals could play the Chinese lottery game. Today you will see several types of tickets and be able to have a lot of fun. There are different options and different house edges to contend with.