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The History Of Bingo

The History Of Bingo

From carnivals and dedicated Bingo halls to online Bingo and modern-day variations, the popular pastime has a rich and varied history. Games of chance have always been much-loved and Bingo is no exception, continuing to thrive today. Let’s take a look at its origins and evolution over the years.

From Italy to the rest of Europe

The consensus is that the Italians introduced Bingo to the world as early as the 16th century. In the mid-1500s, the Italians played a weekly national lottery called Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia, created by the government. It is still played three times a week today. The game is basic and players guess which numbers from 1 to 90 will be drawn. There are 10 different wheels, with each onerepresenting an Italian city. Five numbers are drawn from each wheel and players can choose up to 10 numbers on one or more of the wheels, based on different combinations.

The game continued to develop as it travelled between countries, and the French played a game called Le Lottoin the 1700s. They played on cards split into three columns and nine rows, like the Bingo cards we are familiar with today. During a game, the caller would pick out the wooden counters and players with that number would cover it. The first player to complete a row would be the winner. The game was initially played by the upper-classes, but its popularity soon spread across the country.

Bingo migrated over to the UK in the 19th century and it is rumoured that it was courtesy of the Maltese. Known as Tombola (or Housey-Housey by those in the military), it was not too dissimilar from the French variation. The game was also known as Tombola in Germany but was mainly used as an educational tool to help children improve their spelling, maths or history.

Across the Atlantic to the USA

It is said that Bingo was first called ‘Beano’ in the US and it wasn’t until toy salesman Edwin Lowe coined the term ‘Bingo’ that it became better known. 

The original game of Bingo was played during the Great Depression. By using cheap and accessible materials such as cardboard and dried beans, it meant that anyone could play. This made it a popular game at carnivals, with small prizes up for grabs to keep people playing.

In 1928, Lowe was watching a game unfold in Atlanta, and he brought it back to New York to play with family and friends. Rumour has it that one player got over-excited and shouted ‘Bingo’ rather than ‘Beano’ when she won, and the term stuck. Lowe went on to develop over 6,000 different card combinations and wrote an official Bingo rule book to help standardise the game worldwide.

From dedicated halls to online rooms

In the UK, live Bingo hit its peak from the 1960s. Going to a dedicated hall was often the highlight of people’s social calendar. Playing a few cards, having some food and drink and a natter with friends proved a sociable and affordable night out. A Bingo caller was on hand to shout out the numbers of the balls and some required audience participation. The camaraderie between the caller and players not only helped the games to flow but also created a fun, social element. 

The decline of the Bingo hall is linked to the rise of online Bingo. Since 1996 and the introduction of online Bingo, players can find so many different games. While the 90-ball game is most popular in the UK, you can find 65-ball and 75-ball variations, as well as other games. For example, combining your love of Bingo and Slots, playing scratch cards or even reaching big money when you win a Jackpot Bingo game at Paddy Power.

Where the stereotypical demographic of Bingo was the elderly, retired or unemployed, the accessibility of its online counterpart, and variations of Bingo games (including Bongo’s Bingo, Bingo shows and even Pub Quiz-style TV & Film Bingo) makes it loved by people of all ages.


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