Why Has Keno Become an “Old Person’s” Game?

Keno Cards With Casino Lights Background

Keno has been available in casinos for decades. It’s practically an institution in the gambling world due to its history.

Many people still enjoy this lottery-style game today. However, I can’t help but notice that keno is increasingly becoming an old person’s game.

Based on observation, I’d guess that the average keno parlor visitor is in their sixties. This game is similar to bingo with its older player base.

Why is the average keno player getting older and older? I’ll discuss several reasons why parlors don’t draw many young gamblers.

No Skill Involved

The obvious reason why the keno crowd is aging is because younger players aren’t joining the fold. Millennials in particular don’t embracing the same types of gambling that older generations enjoy.

Instead, millennials are more interested in skill-based gambling, such as poker, esports betting, and sports betting.

Keno is nearly the opposite of a skillful game. It requires you to guess which numbered balls will be randomly drawn from an air machine.

Here are common keno rules:

  • You can put between 1 and 15 numbers on your card.
  • You choose from 1-80 when selecting each number.
  • The more numbers you pick, the higher the payouts you win.

The only true skill in keno is figuring out how many balls you should select to improve your odds (Pick 5 & better are often best). You can also research different casinos to see which ones feature the highest return to player (RTP).

This limited skill doesn’t impress a generation that’s grown up with Texas hold’em and sports betting. Most millennials don’t want to play a different version of the lottery — they want more control over their results.

Not Featured at Online Casinos

Online casino gaming sites push slots and live dealer games more than anything. Virtual table games and scratch cards are their next priorities.

Keno falls near the bottom of the totem pole.

Most likely, you’ll find online keno in a “specialty games” or “other category” at an internet casino.

Some gaming sites do offer multiple versions of this game. For example, you might find different skins for each keno variation.

By and large, though, online casinos don’t see keno as one of their big moneymakers. Therefore, you’ll need to do some browsing to find it.

Extremely Slow Gameplay in Land Based Casinos

Keno is one of the slowest games in brick-and-mortar casinos. Parlors typically only complete between four and six contests per hour.

This relaxed pace is attributed to the playing process. First, the casino must wait until enough players have filled out cards before holding a drawing.

Then, they must announce that the drawing is taking place and release each ball through the air tube. Winning tickets must be collected afterward and prize money delivered accordingly.

View of a Keno Lounge

Keno gameplay isn’t quite as smooth as blackjack, for instance. The latter boasts a speedy dealer who can quickly deal hands, determine wins/losses, and collect losing chips.

Keno requires a more-comprehensive effort when considering everything that goes into drawings and determining winners.

Terrible Keno RTP

Those who play keno today grew up in an era when gambling strategy resources weren’t as widespread.

Sure, books were available in Vegas airports and large chains. However, the widespread availability of online strategy resources that we enjoy today didn’t exist in the mid-1990s and beforehand.

Many older gamblers are willing to overlook keno’s awful RTP as a result. Speaking of which, most keno games only offer between 70% and 90% RTP.

The Pick 1 and Pick 2 options are the worst. They usually pay back less than 80% in most casinos. But the rest of the Picks aren’t much better.

Younger gamblers are used to googling RTPs on whatever casino games they’re thinking of trying. They’re horrified when they see 75% RTP for keno.

Putting this into perspective, land-based slot machines — which can quickly drain your bankroll — generally offer between 88% and 95% RTP.

Compounding the problem is that you can’t do much to change these odds either. Keno strategy doesn’t go much further than choosing Pick 5 and above and researching casinos with the best payback.

Keno Hasn’t Evolved with Modern Gaming

Some casino games have survived for centuries with little-to-no innovation. Blackjack and roulette are among the few entries in this small class.

Most forms of gambling either must evolve or be rendered obsolete. Keno is in danger of falling into the latter category at some point.

This game’s setup doesn’t lend itself to innovation. After all, providers can’t add fancy graphics and animations to land-based keno like they can with slots.

Internet gaming developers have tried giving online keno a fresh look with “crazy” or “party” variations that boast bright and/or abstract background colors. At the end of the day, though, these are just keno games with funky colors.

Perhaps a provider will take on the difficult task of modernizing keno one day. But as it looks now, the game doesn’t have much room for innovation.

Old Person Stigma Is Already Prevalent

It may be too late for keno to change its current perception. Older people already populate parlors throughout the US.

These same gamblers aren’t going to suddenly ignore one of their favorite games. Likewise, millennials won’t pile into keno parlors anytime soon.

Keno isn’t quite at bingo level yet in terms of the old-person vibe. After all, the latter is commonly viewed as a game played by old ladies during church fundraisers (at least in the US anyways).

However, keno could soon venture into bingo territory in the near future. Its player base only continues to grow older by the year.

Keno Is Becoming a Nostalgic Choice

Coin-operated slot machines have long been phased out by most casinos. Ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO) slots are much more prevalent today due to multiple advantages.

Nevertheless, a few Vegas casinos still keep coin-based slot machines on their floors. The idea is to capture the older crowd that wants to relive Sin City trips from the eighties and beforehand.

Keno could very well become the next coin-operated slot. It’s featured in fewer land-based and online casinos these days than ever before.

I could easily see this game’s popularity revolving around nostalgia at some point. Much like those who pump quarters into the few remaining vintage slots, keno parlors will eventually become limited antiques.

Conclusion

Bingo still holds the top spot as the ultimate old people’s game in America. However, keno is giving bingo a run for its money.

This game doesn’t have key elements that are attractive to younger gamblers, such as skill and high RTP. The main skill involved is choosing an appropriate amount of numbers that’ll raise payback.

You can at least exercise research skills to improve your keno odds. However, you can’t use the same stimulating strategy that’s available in games like Texas hold’em.

Unfortunately, you still won’t face great odds even when you choose Pick 5 or higher. Many keno games offer just 90% RTP or lower.

Closeup of a Digital Keno Board

Even if you’re willing to put up with limited strategy and bad payback, brick-and-mortar keno can feel like watching paint dry. Some parlors offer as little as one game every 15 minutes.

Keno also suffers from limited availability in online casinos. Many young gamblers prefer betting through their smartphones and tablets. They can easily overlook keno when considering that it’s shoved in specialty sections.

Internet casinos don’t feel that this game offers enough to modern gamblers. They’d rather showcase the latest slots or live dealer gaming than a fast-aging game.

Even if you’re able to see past all the factors that date keno, you can’t overlook the crowd that fills parlors. You’ll find a bunch of sixty and seventy somethings populating these areas.

My prediction is that keno has 5-10 more years where it’ll be a relevant casino game. After this, it’ll likely go the way of coin-operated slot machines and become a rare vintage offering in downtown Vegas.