When you jump online to play bingo at your favourite bingo websites, you could be fooled into thinking that bingo is a recent invention. The fact of the matter is very different though, as the history of bingo doesn’t just stretch back for decades, but for centuries. Are you intrigued to find out more about the way in which the game you love developed? If so, keep on reading to learn about the history of bingo, from its beginnings hundreds of years ago, through to the modern day…

Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia

If you’ve been to Italy before, you might have heard of Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia. Why? Well, because it is the Italian version of the National Lottery. But what relevance does this have to bingo though? The answer to this question is simple: it was the first lottery style game recorded in history, and set out the basic rules for all other lottery games to follow (bingo is, when you think about it, almost identical to the principles of a lottery).

Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia has been around since back in 16th century, so this means that the origins of bingo are nearly 500 years old. That’s a pretty impressive figure for a game still played today! The format of the game got closer to the modern version of bingo in the 18th century though when French upper-class citizens started to play a game called Le Lotto. In this game, random numbered chips were drawn from a bag, and each player had a card with numbers on it. The first player to make a horizontal row was declared the winner. Does that sound a little like bingo to you?

Edwin S. Lowe and Beano

While there are ancient descendants of bingo, which are described above, the inventor of the modern game was a man called Edwin S. Lowe, who lived in New York. In 1929, he happened to find himself at a fair, and noticed a game being played called Beano. He wasn’t the only one to notice it though, as the stall had many people around it, showing that it was clearly a popular game with those at the fair.

In the game of Beano, players were given a card with numbers on it. The caller would then pick numbered beans (hence the name) from a container and call them out. The winning player was the one to complete a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line on their card.

It also happened to be the case that Lowe owned a toy company, albeit a failing one. He saw the potential of Beano though, and decided to test it out on his friends. When they loved it, he came to the conclusion that he would begin manufacturing bingo games for sale. They were an instant success, and soon many other companies started to manufacture games of their own.

One question you might be asking is this though: why did the name change from Beano to Bingo? Well, it’s because of one of Lowe’s friends, who got a little overexcited while playing the game. When she realised she’d won, she forgot the word to shout, and instead blurted out “Bingo!” The name then stuck, and is still used today.


The Spread of Bingo

Up until now, bingo had only been played in people’s homes, privately amongst friends. The first known occurrence of bingo being played on a larger scale came just a few months after Lowe released his game though. A church in Pennsylvania wanted to use the game as a way to raise funds, however found that the limited number of cards almost always led to multiple winners. To combat this, Lowe hired a mathematician, who set about creating 6,000 individual cards, all of which were unique.

With the addition of extra cards, the game became one that could be played by large amounts of people at the same time. Soon after, huge numbers of people were playing bingo on a larger scale. In fact, by 1934, it was estimated that 10,000 games of bingo were being played per week, in the USA alone.

Bingo Comes to the UK

As with many popular American pastimes, it was only a matter of time before bingo hit British shores. It was around the 1960s that bingo first began to take hold in the UK, and bingo halls started to become commonplace in every large British town and city. It was the perfect opportunity for a fun night out, as well as a great place for people to head to during the day.

Bingo did change slightly when it came to the UK though, as the game was adapted to have 90 balls, as opposed to the 75 balls usually used in the US. This, in the opinion of British bingo players, made the game even more exciting to play, as the games were longer, and there was less chance of two or more players having to share a prize.

When bingo was first played in the UK, it was done so using a card and a pen, and many people became proficient at marking multiple cards during a single game. As technology progressed though, mechanized bingo became the norm. This saw the cards removed from the table, and get replaced by computer screens. Now players simply tap the number on the screen to mark it. Many bingo halls now often use mechanized callers as well, allowing computers to randomly select the numbers and broadcast them to the players.

The Popularity of Playing Bingo Online

Up until quite recently, bingo halls were doing good business. Business then started to dry up though, causing a number of halls to shut their doors. The reason? Online bingo. As the internet started to enter the lives of most people, players found that they could play online, instead of actually leaving the house to play a game. What’s more, the prizes offered at online bingo sites were often a lot larger than the ones found at land-based bingo halls.

Players can now even play bingo online when they are away from home, thanks to mobile bingo. A player simply needs a mobile device and an internet connection, and they can play anywhere, from coffee shops to shopping centres.

So, bingo started off as a lottery in Italy in the 1500s, but has grown and changed radically over the years. The man all bingo players have to thank though is Edwin S. Lowe – the man who saw the potential of the game, and brought it to the public’s attention.


amelia cassiday profile pictureAmelia Cassiday is an online bingo writer and player for the past 5 years. Her expertise and knowledge of the online bingo industry are utilised when covering the latest news and trends. Amelia particularly enjoys reviewing new bingo sites as well as writing detailed game guides. When offline, she can be found maintaining her garden and reading a good book at her home in Newcastle, UK.