Keno is the game all savvy gamblers avoid. If you’ve read anything about keno, then you know that the odds are bad, the payouts are worse than state-run lotteries, and it’s a complicated game.
Still, keno is gaining in popularity. It’s inspiring knock-games in the state lottery inventories. And online keno is doing well with low-budget gamblers.
What’s up with all the keno players? Well, keno prizes are awarded every day to someone. As long as people hear about players winning a prize in any gambling game, that word-of-mouth advertising helps the game increase its followers.
But there’s definitely more to keno than the rumor of George and Sam winning small jackpots. It’s the game itself that makes it so appealing to casual players.
On top of that, most keno players are not playing at casinos. You’ll still find keno games in most casinos, but their biggest money makers will always be the slot machine games.
The same is true for online gambling. Slot games are more engaging and stimulating than keno games. But keno has its own niche market.
People Love to Play Keno Wherever They Go
This is more true in some areas than in others. If you live in a state or country where all the convenience stores, bars, and restaurants offer live keno games, you’ll know what I mean.
It’s fun to win a big prize on a scratch off, but other people are not emotionally invested in your game.
Friends can play keno together at bars and restaurants. You can go out for lunch with co-workers and play several games of keno while talking about work and family.
If you’re on a road trip and you need a break, you can sit in a convenience store and play a few games of keno before driving off.
Marketing Makes Almost Any Game Popular
I can think of a few professional sports that never became popular. Do you remember the professional gymnastics league? That wasn’t much of a big money maker. Nor was indoor football (an American football game).
When it comes to launching a new competitive sport, you need a lot of marketing. Several attempts at creating new American football leagues have failed despite television contracts and media blitzes.
But the stakes are lower for lottery-style games. And the organizations benefiting from offering keno aren’t competing with existing gambling companies or authorities. The casinos and the state lotteries are announcing and promoting keno games.
President Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909) famously said the White House is a bully pulpit from which its occupant could speak out on behalf of or against any topic. That’s marketing from the top.
When you run ALL the games, you can promote any new game and it has a good chance of succeeding. Lottery games sometimes flop, but not often. The more casinos and lottery authorities that offer keno, the more keno promotions casual gamblers see.
People Love Variety in Their Lottery Gaming
The big games rarely change. EuroMillions, Mega Millions, and Powerball rarely change their rules. Their ticket sales wax and wane with the size of their top prizes.
And yet people who won’t buy a Powerball ticket for the chance of winning $1 million (a lesser prize) may play the Daily Five game every day of the week. Scratch off ticket games come and go because people have stopped believing in them.
Keno games fall somewhere in between the big lottery games and the small scratch off games. There’s a lot of variety in keno. Any one keno game offering allows players to make multiple wagers on different sets of numbers.
And some lottery authorities offer online keno computer drawings, live keno drawings, and scratch off keno games. In some areas, you can play keno five different ways. That’s not counting the online casinos offering keno games provided by different service vendors.
Keno Is Easy to Learn So It’s Easy to Sell
The more complicated a gambling game, the fewer casual players it attracts. Slot machines are so popular compared to the fairer games of baccarat, blackjack, and poker because people don’t have to think when playing the slots.
Lottery game rules are usually very simple. Keno is the most complicated lottery game system of all, and it is easy to master. It takes a little more thought than pushing a button on a slot game but not much.
Once a player chooses which numbers to play and how many numbers to bet on, she can keep playing keno forever without having to think again.
People enjoy chatting with friends, eating, or catching up on the latest news while their money is working for them. Playing keno may be a terrible investment, but it comes with the same guarantee as buying any random stock without investigating the company and market conditions.
Venues that offer keno games don’t need to invest time and money in teaching players how to enjoy the game. And that means it’s a low-cost, entry-level business for them. It’s also easier to persuade people to try a simple game they don’t have to study.
Keno is a game of convenience, just like any other lottery game. It requires at most a few minutes to fill out a ticket, and video keno games require even less time to play.
Keno Gives the Player a Greater Sense of Control
This is, in my opinion, an illusory feeling, but it’s a real feeling of control. Because there are so many choices, keno players feel like they can dial the risk up and down.
And there’s truth in that feeling.
The ease and simplicity of keno allows players to bet on multiple picks in the same drawing. They decide what they commit to. It’s not an all-or-nothing game like with slot machine games where players usually only vary how much they bet within a limited range.
Players Gamble Based on Optimism
When you look at the odds on any gambling game, they’re always stacked against the player. “The house always wins in the long run” is the holy mantra of gambling advice. Players should get in, win big, and get out. But it rarely happens that way.
Psychologists have studied risk taking for over 100 years. They offer many opinions on why people gamble, risk their lives, or just do dumb things. Despite the lack of universal consensus, many psychologists say people gamble because they don’t fully believe the odds are against them.
Players don’t think about how the probabilities favor the house. They think, “There’s still a chance I might win.” But gambling isn’t about winning. It’s about possibly winning.
Psychology factors into every type of gambling. That means it’s as reasonable to a keno lover to keep playing the game as it is to a hardcore poker fan. The fact one game is random and the other is based on skill makes no difference.
If people don’t feel optimistic about their chances of winning, even to a small degree, they usually won’t gamble.
I call this the “false sure bet” attitude. It’s not a sure thing, but something deep inside of us convinces us to make one more wager as if it’s a sure bet. After all, you might win.
Maybe you’ll never play keno in your life. Maybe you’ll play it every day. If you wonder why people keep playing keno, it’s likely because it’s available everywhere.
And keno is everywhere because the its industry generates billions of dollars in revenue every year. As long as there’s big money in the game, there will be lots of players.
If that sounds circular, it is. Keno has become a self-sustaining industry. It doesn’t have to be the best gambling game, it only needs to be popular.
And popularity doesn’t follow the odds.