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What is the most popular form of gambling in the world? If you answered online slots, then you are close, but that cigar will not be resting between your lips any time soon! Also, if you said betting on sporting events, then you deserve a prize, but only from the second shelf down!

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The most popular form of gambling in the world is actually the buying of lottery tickets. You may think that buying a lottery ticket is not a form of gambling, but it most definitely is. You are risking your stake (the cost of the ticket) in the hope that the lottery machine will draw the numbers you have chosen to place your faith in. If you get all six (or whatever) numbers correct, then you might suddenly find yourself a multi-millionaire. It is much more likely, though, that you won’t be a winner.

Online casinos do not allow you to buy lottery tickets (at least none that we know of do) but many host the ‘lottery style’ casino game called Keno. Right here, you can learn all you may want to know about this game with our guide Online Keno Casino Guide.

History of Keno

First up, a word on pronunciation. Just like ‘Baccarat’ people seem to have different opinions on how ‘Keno’ should be pronounced. Some say ‘ken-o’ while other says ‘key-no’. Here at NewCasinos.org, we can lay this discussion to rest, as it is officially ‘key-no’.

Like most casino games, there are many accounts as to how keno originated. One thing that most people do agree on though is that the game in Asian in origin, and many seem to think that game was first played in China. Tales though that the game was invented by authorities in China to help pay for the building of the Great Wall of China are likely to be little more than fairy tales.

No written evidence supports the idea of keno being an ancient game before the 1850s. The early forms of keno were lottery games run by operators in the Portuguese colony Macau, which is a tiny area in southern China (and now recognised as the place in the world where the planet’s most cash-laden casino games take place).

This idea is supported by the origins of the word ‘keno’ which may have been derived from the French word ‘quine’ for ‘five winning numbers’ or the Latin word ‘quini’ for ‘five each’. In China, the game is sometimes played using Chinese characters (letters of the Chinese ‘alphabet’) from a famous Chinese poem ‘Thousand Character Classic’ in which no word ever repeats. Players choose five characters from the poem; then five are drawn at random to decide the winner.

Via the Chinese influx of workers to America in the 1860s keno made its way to the United States where it became popular in fledgeling casinos. It then made the reverse-journey back to Asian casinos where it became prevalent indeed.

One oddity – when keno reached ‘gambling friendly’ Nevada it was deemed illegal as it was too much like a lottery, and lotteries were illegal at the time. Casinos, therefore, called keno ‘racehorse keno’ and instead of drawing numbers, players would draw the name of a fictitious racehorse. The draw was considered a ‘race’ as opposed to a draw. This practice fell away when lotteries were made legal.

How to Play Keno at Online Casinos

Keno runs almost precisely like a lottery, but with a few differences. Players select numbers, balls are drawn, and players with the drawn numbers selected are the winners.

Unlike lotteries though, in the standard form of keno as many as twenty balls are drawn. Players may also choose to select as many numbers as they wish too, from one to twenty. The keno-drawing machine will contain eighty numbered balls. In most versions of casino keno though, the maximum number of numbers that a player can ‘spot’ is fifteen.

In casinos, a keno ticket will contain eighty numbers in eight rows of ten. A player will mark off as many numbers as they see fit to back, then hand their ticket into the keno operator. Once the time is up (and whether all players have submitted their tickets or not) the draw begins and continues until all twenty balls are drawn. In modern casinos, tickets are checked automatically by computerised card-readers and software, so that any winners can be announced quickly and so the next keno draw can commence. Most online keno casino games have more than one round to save a player from having to fill in a new card for each game.

Unlike roulette, blackjack or baccarat, there are no hard and set rules for payouts. In this way a game of casino keno is like a slot – each version of keno will have its own payout table.

Some versions of keno may have a minimum limit on the number of numbers than can be backed. For example, some keno versions may not permit a player to back just one or two numbers.

Payout rules may differ per game too. For example, in some keno games, a player who backs seven numbers must ‘hit’ at least three of them to receive a payout. In others, a player may have to hit four, and so on.

In most forms of keno, the maximum number of numbers that can be backed is twenty, as twenty balls are drawn from the keno machine. Some games will set that limit to fifteen.

Below is an example of a keno payout table. The numbers on the top row indicate the number of numbers the player ‘hit’ or ‘caught’. The numbers in the left-hand column represent the number of numbers the player bet upon or ‘spotted’. The numbers in the body of the table represent what the player wins as a multiple of their stake:



Therefore, if someone bets $10, spots eight numbers and hits six, they win nineteen times their stake, hence $190.

Obviously, the more numbers you hit, then more you are likely to win. However, the more numbers you spot to win, the less you will actually win if you hit a fair percentage of the numbers that you spot.

If you have time, you can work out all the maths involved with the number of numbers that you spot and the number of numbers you hit. You would need to compare this to what you win to work out the best bet possible.

There is a way of doing this. Modern calculators have a ‘COMBIN’ function which will work out the number of possible combinations of x numbers from y. For example, if twenty numbers are drawn, and you need to hit five, then there are 15,504 possible combinations. Overall though, the five numbers are drawn from 80, which means 24,040,016 possible combinations. Your odds are selecting the correct five are 15,504 divided by 24,040,016, which is 0.00064492, or 0.06%. This may seem tiny, but usually, you do not expect to hit all five numbers when you select five, and you will win a payout even if you just hit one.

If you don’t want to do the maths, then don’t worry as we here at NewCasinos.org have done the maths for you! As you might expect, keno does have something of a high house edge. If you select just one number, the house edge is a massive 25%. With two or three numbers, it’s even higher at around 28%, and with four or five numbers, it rises to 29%. With all other spot amounts, the house edge is around 30%.

RTPs with online casinos is much higher than bricks and mortar casinos, as the payouts are more generous.

Keno variants

There are very few keno variants around the online casino realm, but here are a couple of the most popular ones.


Dreamcatcher is one of Evolution’s (until 2020, Evolution Gaming) flagship live casino products. While not quite keno, it has many keno-style elements. Players pick one number from the six numbers available (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 or 40). The number also represents the payout, and the larger the number, the less chance a player has of winning. The ‘keno wheel’ has two other segments – a 2x multiplier and a 7x multiplier.

The game is straightforward to play – if your number comes up, then you’re a winner. For example, if you chose ‘2’ and bet $5 then should the keno wheel stop on a ‘2’ you win $10. If it stops anywhere else, you lose.

If the wheel lands on an x2 or x7 multiplier than that multiplier is active for the next round on all winning bets.

Monopoly LIVE!

Also from Evolution, this game is identical to Dreamcatcher aside from one major difference – the keno wheel has segments ‘2 ROLLS’ and ‘4 ROLLS’. If these segments come up, then play switches to a live, 3D Monopoly board with cash prizes and multiple bonuses. Any money won during Monopoly play is awarded to all players who placed bets on those segments coming up.

Successful Keno Strategy at Online Casinos

The only way to be one hundred percent successful at keno is to buy four 20-spot tickets for the same round and cover all eighty numbers. This was you would hit every single number that is drawn, but they will be distributed over four tickets. The minimum number of numbers you will hit on your best-performing ticket will be five … but with most casino keno games that allow you to buy a 20-spot ticket, there is no payout for five numbers. You’d have to hope that your numbers are distributed less evenly than five per card.

So, really, there is no successful keno strategy at online casinos as the game is purely random. It does not matter at all which numbers you pick as any number combination is just as likely as any other number combination. If you choose five numbers and select 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 you are just as likely to win as if you pick 7, 19, 45, 63 and 78 (even though there is a thing in your head called ‘cognitive bias’ that will tell you – wrongly – that this is not the case.)

Ignore anything on the internet you may find promising ‘the ultimate winning keno strategy’ or anything similar. All such strategies are bogus and do not work.


If you like buying lottery tickets, and you like casinos and online casinos, then keno is probably a game you should try. Unlike a lottery, you do not have to wait hours, days or even weeks for the numbers to be drawn as a keno draw takes place every few minutes or so.

Enjoy your keno playing and as ever, make sure that you gamble responsibly and only with money that you happy to lose.

Keno FAQ

  • I’ve seen keno strategies that talk about ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ numbers. What are they?

    A ‘hot’ number is a number that has come up in keno draws more often than probability dictates it should have done. A ‘cold’ number is a number that has come up in keno draws less often than probability dictates. Some strategies say you should bet on ‘hot’ numbers and others say you should bet on ‘cold’ numbers.

    In reality, there are no such things as hot and cold numbers. The two events mentioned above are nothing more than temporary statistical anomalies that will even out given time. Keno is nothing more than random chance, no matter what some people may tell you.

  • Are there any differences between casino in the real world, and online keno?

    Yes, and there is one main, important difference. In real-world keno, the house edge is ridiculous high at between 25% and 30%. With online casinos the payouts are significantly more generous, the return-to-player usually being between 5% and 10%.

    Please do not think though this is a case of the online software companies having feelings of unreasonable generosity. For most licences, there is a minimum RTP (return-to-player) which all RNG-based games must adhere too else they cannot be offered. This minimum is usually around 90%, although with some licence operators it is a little higher.

  • I’ve seen keno games where the numbers are different colours. Why is that?

    Indeed, with some games half the numbers are black, and half the numbers are red. In these games as well as the standard keno betting options, players can bet on more black numbers being drawn than red numbers (or vice versa), or more even numbers being drawn that red numbers (or vice versa). These options have no bearing on the game but they do make it a little more interesting.

  • I’ve seen jobs advertised for ‘keno runners’ – what is a keno runner?

    In real-world casinos, people do not usually stand around the keno wheel waiting for its next spin. Instead, casinos employ ‘Keno Runners’ who wander around the casino shouting ‘keno’. Casino patrons can buy a keno ticket from a keno runner and mark off their numbers. The runner will then return the ticket to the part of the casino where the keno wheel spins. If the ticket is a winner, the runner will return it to the player with their winnings.

  • Can I play keno at a live casino?

    Yes! As well as the keno-style games Dreamcatcher and Monopoly LIVE! mentioned above, there are also a few live versions of authentic keno available. Check your favourite online casino to see if live keno is available.

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