There are two types of keno games that you’ll find online or in land based casinos. There is video keno which is a cousin to slot machines and video poker. There is also ‘regular’ keno. To make it more confusing, you can find video versions of regular keno (the one played with paper and markers in the casino)online as well as video keno (the one related to slots and video poker). In this article, we’ll talk about ‘regular’ or ‘traditional’ keno.

Keno was introduced to the United States in the 1800’s by Chinese immigrants. Many of these immigrants worked in mines and on the railroads and introduced it to their colleagues and it began to become very popular on an informal basis. It was easy to understand and offered the opportunity to bet a little and make a lot–something that is always enticing to the general public and ‘recreational’ gamblers.


With many of the aforementioned Chinese immigrants settling in the Western United States it gave keno a strong popularity base there. When gambling was legalized in Nevada it was a natural to offer in casinos. The game play originated from the ‘keno lounge’ though until the past couple of decades ‘keno runners’ were ubiquitous in most casinos. ‘Keno runners’ made the rounds of the casino to pick up keno tickets that players could mark while in the coffee shop or otherwise occupied on the casino floor. That’s likely the reason that each round of keno play was known as a ‘keno race’ though that term has fallen into disuse. If your keno runner picked up your ticket and it was a winner they would return with your winnings after the game was complete.

The game of keno is simple and familiar to anyone who plays the lottery. The player selects 4 to 10 numbers on a card with numbers indicated from 1 to 80. Each selection is called a ‘spot’. The more spots you select the higher your odds of winning and the greater your potential payout. A game is run every few minutes with numbers drawn from a hopper with 80 balls marked from one to eighty. More recently, this function has been delegated to random number generators though many still use the ‘ball and hopper’ motif on their computer screens. The casino employee draws 20 balls (or the digital eqivilant) and if enough of the numbers you selected match the numbers that the casino drew you’re a winner. How much money you win depends on how many spots you played and how many numbers you hit.


Keno is still in existence at many land based casinos and it has gained new life thanks to the popularity of state lotteries. For example, the Oregon Lottery offers a new keno game every four minutes. In Oregon, players must bet their keno tickets at a lottery affiliate (bars, grocery stores, convenience stores) but in some states players can enjoy keno online. The Georgia Lottery runs a new keno game every 3 1/2 minutes and tickets can be purchased online.

Many online casinos also offer keno–and frequently in multiple versions. In some cases you can find ‘video keno’, ‘traditional keno’ and sometimes hybrids of the two with unique features and payback options. Historically, keno has had one of the highest ‘house advantages’ in the casino. In some cases, the ‘house edge’ was as high as 35%. Many online casinos offer significantly better odds through a lower ‘house edge’ with some as low as 5%.

No matter where you play–online or at a land based casino–it’s important to understand the game and shop around to find the best odds and payouts. Obviously, keno is mostly luck but there’s no reason to play at a casino that isn’t offering you a reasonable chance of making money. Shopping around for the best odds is another advantage of online keno–it’s as simple as clicking on a link while comparing your options at land based casino could take a lot of walking and research.