Marie Claire Graham
by Marie Claire Graham

Best Keno Casinos Canada 2024

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Great Wall of China - Wikimedia Commons

How did keno start?

Wondering where the game of Keno even came from? The place was Las Vegas, the year was 1985. Just kidding. Keno has been around longer than you could probably even wrap your head around. As one of the oldest ever gambling games, its roots were formed in China during the Han Dynasty about 3,000 years ago.

Now this wasn’t some seedy, back alley creation that enraptured impoverished peasants. On the contrary, Keno was masterminded by China’s ruler of the day, Cheung Leung, who needed more money to fund yet another endless war but had already over-taxed his people. So what was he to do? Rather cunningly, he decided to create Keno as a means to derive funding through ticket sales, essentially becoming the world’s first profitable casino.

Legend has it Keno was also used once again, many years later, to fund the construction of the Great Wall of China (don’t quote me on this as it’s not entirely verified). The actual, official Chinese lottery only became licensed in the 1800s so it’s interesting to note that the urge to try your luck manifested well before the law properly caught up.

So have the ravages of time had an impact on how Keno is played today? Yes indeed. In fact, the original game was quite different, played with 120 different Chinese characters rather than the 80 numbers used today. To make things easier for us Westerners, the far simpler use of numbers has taken their place. However, if you took the time to travel to China to play Keno, you’ll find that they still use Chinese characters, but these have also been reduced to 80.

Keno’s Journey To The West

So how did Keno even make it to the shores of the West? Well, as is the case with many of our staples such as tea, coffee, and spices, Keno washed up in San Francisco along with the hordes of Chinese sailors. These young men were keen to share the gambling thrills with the unsuspecting Americans and changed all the Chinese characters to numbers to help ramp up American uptake.

It worked!

It worked so well that Keno stuck around long after the Chinese sailors had boarded their ships and sailed away. The only problem was that since lotteries were illegal in the US at the time, Keno had to be transformed in order to pass scrutiny.

Lottery balls for Keno

That’s how it became ‘Racehorse Keno’, where names of horses were used instead of numbers on the tickets, and each drawing was called a race. If all your horses were drawn, you were a winner. The game was therefore able to bypass the restrictions set by state laws and Keno nestled comfortably into a lovely grey area.

Once lotteries were made legal, most casinos dropped the pretence and called a spade a spade, but if you look hard enough you’ll still find casinos, both online and not, that will let you play that old iconic game of Racehorse Keno.

How Popular Is Keno In Canada?

I like to think of Keno as Bingo’s more obscure cousin. Despite outranking Bingo in terms of historical duration, many people are still unaware of the game, let alone how to play it. Canada is no exception here. This being said, recent years have seen an upswing in Keno’s popularity.

With its increased listing on online casinos, more and more people are being exposed to the way this game is played. Its appeal doesn’t just lie with the possibility of big money if you get Keno winning numbers, more and more players are also being drawn to the notion of a full-blown instant lottery. So if you’re the kind of online gamer that likes to play for real money and instant thrills, Keno may well be the game for you.

How To Play Keno Online

Traditional Keno sheets - Wikimedia CommonsOnce you’ve chosen your online Keno site, the rest is pretty simple. Instead of choosing your numbers based on a physical ticket, you simply pick them off a grid on your screen. You have to choose a minimum of 1 number out of 80, up to a maximum of 20 numbers.

Once you’ve made your choice, you have to decide how much you want to bet per draw, obviously this will determine how much you win if your numbers get picked. Once you’ve completed these two steps, all you have to do is wait for the numbers to be drawn and find out if you’re a winner!

Can you play Keno online for real money?

I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention or if you skipped over the History of Keno section entirely, but Keno was never meant to be a game of simple recreation. It was created purely as a game of chance in which the players staked real money bets.

Of course, as with any game in existence, you’ll find a ‘just for fun’ version online or you can recreate it at home, but Keno was never meant to be just for fun. So if you want to play Keno online for real money, you’re in luck. And really, if lottery-style games are your thing, online Keno is unlikely to disappoint you.

There’s something particularly gripping about hitting a button and finding out if your numbers have been chosen. The notion of not having to wait a few days as would often have to with the regular lottery is an addictive opportunity to satisfy your need for instant gratification.

What Are The Odds On Keno?

Ah. The million dollar question. Fortunately it’s also a rather easy one to answer. I’ll give you the facts and then you can decide for yourself whether or not online Keno floats your boat. As with all games, Keno odds offered per bet will vary between casinos. You also have to consider the fact that the expected payout will change according to how many numbers you select per ticket. So where should you take your money? Generally speaking, online casinos give way better Keno odds than brick and mortar ones, so if you have the option it’s always better to play online.

In terms of your chances of winning, the short answer is that the odds don’t favour the player. But that’s not entirely surprising given the lottery-like nature of Keno. On average, a physical casino has up to a 29% advantage over the player, but this is significantly reduced if you play online Keno where the overall house edge is 7.5%.

What remains completely true, and definitely worth bearing in mind, is that the higher the payouts for the numbers you play, the lower the house edge becomes. Therefore it follows that to increase your chances of success, you should choose fewer numbers on your ticket to increase your opportunity of hitting the numbers you need. Sure you’ll get better winning odds on a 15 spot ticket but what are the chances of hitting all 15 numbers? Better to take a smaller payout for a realistic chance of success.

In summary? If you like long odds and the opportunity to win a potentially life-changing amount of money, you’re likely to find that Keno is the game for you.

Marie Claire Graham
Marie Claire Graham Author
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Meet Marie-Claire Graham, a bubbly Canadian writer with a passion for all things casino. She graduated from Conestoga College with a degree in graphic design, and has been using her expertise to provide in-depth and engaging content on the exciting w... Read more about Marie Claire Graham