Bingo: A Game 500 Years in the Making

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From its humble origins around 500 years ago, bingo has grown to become one of the world’s most widely-played betting games. In the UK alone, bingo is estimated to be worth around £1.3 billion every year, with the numbers growing year on year, both on and offline.

What is bingo?

The rules of bingo are relatively simple compared to other forms of gambling. In the game, players mark off numbers on a card as they are randomly drawn by a caller. In the UK, these numbers span between 1 and 90, while in the US they usually run from 1 to 75.

A typical UK game card has three rows split into nine columns, giving a total of 27 spaces. Of these, 15 are occupied by randomly allocated numbers (again, ranging from 1 to 90). As soon as a player has ticked-off all the numbers on their card, they are declared the game winner. Prizes are also normally given for partially completed cards.

Bingo offers great entertainment value and has been proven to be one of the safest and least addictive forms of gambling. For most people, bingo is just a fun and exciting past-time, often played with friends.


Simple beginnings

Bingo is believed to have started as a basic lottery game around 500 years ago in Italy — originally called “Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia”— a game that’s still played today.

Its popularity soon spread across mainland Europe, particularly in France, where it earned a new name, “Le Lotto”. The game was especially popular amongst French aristocrats, although it was also played in Germany, mostly as a learning aid for numeracy in children.

A version of bingo closely resembling the game we know today is thought to have originated in early 20th century Britain, when it became a regular feature at funfairs and carnivals. It’s here that the tombola system for drawing numbers became widely used and the game soon reached peak popularity across industrial towns and cities.


The name ‘bingo’

With populations migrating in droves to America in the early 20th century, it wouldn’t be long before the game would find a new home — and a new name — Stateside. An adapted version of bingo was played in the US, with players marking their numbers with beans and calling “beano” once they’d filled their cards.

It’s widely believed that the name originates from a mispronunciation made by a player who, in the excitement of winning, called ‘bingo’ instead of ‘beano’. The mistake was overheard by New York salesman Edwin S Lowe, who would go on to develop the modern version of the game as we know it today.

Lowe invested heavily in the game, printing new cards and devising increasingly complex number combinations with the help of a university professor of mathematics, Carl Leffler. Between them, they would go on to invent and patent over 6,000 different bingo card combinations, leading to a surge in popularity of the game during the 1950s and 1960s.


Bingo in the 21st century

As with many other industries, bingo has been given a new lease of life through online technologies and its popularity has never been greater than today. Online directories like www.bingositesreviewer.com feature information on the best bingo sites and the game continues to go from strength to strength.

Even in an age of increasingly sophisticated graphics and complex game plots, the lure and appeal of a relatively simple game like bingo still attracts the masses. Indeed, developers are finding increasingly inventive and engaging ways to involve players in bingo, including interactive group games played in the background while watching movies or during live chats.

After 500 years at the top, it seems “Giuoco/Lotto/Beano/Bingo” still has a few tricks up its sleeve and will be with us for a good while yet.