The game of keno originated in China and was initially played using sheets printed with Chinese characters. Chinese immigrants later introduced keno to the West when they sailed across the Pacific in order to help build the American trans-continental railroad in the 19th century. Even though the game was illegal, it remained popular with Chinese immigrants and became known as "The Chinese lottery".
The popularity and legitimacy of the game grew after the Chinese characters were replaced with numbers. The name of the game has changed over the years in order to reclassify the game as a casino game and not a lottery. This was done to make sure the legality of the game was in line with the various casino and lottery regulations created over the last century.
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