History of Bingo

Title : History of Bingo
Description : The history of bingo is more exciting than the game.
Keyword : history of bingo
The history of bingo : from Italian lotteries to casinos via the church

Modern-day bingo is a descendant from the lotteries of the old whose roots can be traced back to the 16th century Italy. In its present form, bingo is a game of chance in which each player has one or more cards printed with differently numbered squares on which to place markers when the respective numbers are drawn and announced by a caller. The first player to mark a complete row of numbers is the winner.

The first documented case of this game is ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia’, the first state-run lottery that proved immensely popular both with the people and government of Italy in the 1530s. While ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia’ is still played in Italy every Saturday, the game was introduced in France in the form of ‘Le Lotto’ in the 1770s.

The form of bingo that we see today has more semblances to the French lottery ‘Le Lotto’ that was reportedly popular among wealthy Frenchmen. In this game, each player had a single card divided into three rows and nine columns with numbers arranged much in the same way as in the present-day bingo cards. Column one had random numbers between 1 and 10, column two numbers between 11 and 20 and so on. In addition every row had five numbers and four blanks. The player who covered all the numbers on an entire row first was declared the winner.

In the 1800’s bingo variations began to be used as teaching devices. Germany also played the game, but primarily used it as a teaching device to help students learn mathematics, spelling, history, biology etc.

The game was introduced in North America in 1929 and came to be known as ‘beano’ – fair game where a dealer would select numbered discs from a cigar box and players would mark their cards with beans. They yelled “beano” if they won. It was first played at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia. The coining of the term ‘bingo’ is attributed to a slip of the tongue, in the excitement of yelling ‘beano’! According to some, New York toy salesman Edwin S Lowe renamed the game ‘bingo’ after he overheard someone accidentally yell ‘bingo’ instead of ‘beano’.

A shrewd salesman, Lowe was quick to sense the potential of developing the game and hired a Columbia University mathematics professor, Carl Leffler, to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. By 1930, Leffler had invented 6,000 different bingo cards and reportedly went insane. The popularity of bingo soared in America when the game was played in churches to raise funds for the cathedrals.

As the popularity of bingo and revenue from it increased, the government introduced the 1968 Bingo Gaming Act for bingo players to ensure that the game did not lead to exploitation. This led to the setting up of the Bingo Gaming Board to oversee the bingo playing industry and helped bingo becoming the well-organized and reputable game today. By 1934, an estimated 10,000 bingo games were played weekly, and today more than $90 million dollars are spent on bingo each week in North America alone!