The word ‘keno’ is an Americanism, in fact, a corruption of the French word ‘quine’, meaning ‘group of five’, but the game originated, as ‘ baige piao’, or ‘white pigeon ticket’, in China at least 2,000 years ago. Essentially, like bingo, or lotto, keno is a lottery played as a game and, as such, offers a house edge of 20% or 30% in many cases.
Keno is played with a ticket – either a physical, paper ticket or a virtual, electronic version on a video touchscreen – bearing the numbers 1 to 80, arranged in an 8 x10 grid pattern. In traditional keno, a.k.a. ‘spot keno’, players choose between 1 and 20 numbers, or ‘spots’, typically between 1 and 15, and are paid according to the numbers of spots they ‘catch’. ‘Catching a spot’ simply means matching one of their numbers to one of the 20 winning numbers drawn, at random, in each single game of keno. Historically, for legislative purposes, keno was known as ‘race horse keno’ and each single game is still known as a ‘race’. Keno payout odds vary from casino to casino but, in Las Vegas, if a player marks, say, 15 spots, they can expect to receive $10 for catching seven, $30 for catching eight, $100 for catching nine, and so on, all the way up to $50,000 for catching all 15, for a $1 bet.