Over the years bingo has gone through peaks and troughs in popularity, however with the online bingo revolution shooting it to heights bingo fans never dreamed of, the history of the beloved game has never been more keenly questioned. Today it is a huge game in both the UK and America, as well as growing in popularity hugely in Australia and Scandinavia. Add to that the massive upsurge in bingo halls playing the American version in places like Argentina, and you begin to see how much of a global game it is.
From the glitzy glamorous locations in the United States, to the huge bingo hall chains like Mecca Bingo in the UK, the game of bingo has much more humble origins. It is thought to be dated back to the 1500’s where it was created in Italy. It is wildly accepted that it found its origins in the Italian lottery “Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia”. From Italy it spread into the rest of Europe in the 1700’s.
It was easiest at first to spread to the countries that shared their borders with Italy, and initially this was France. In Germany it was used as a method of teaching school children maths, especially tables of multiplication, spelling and names. This was in the 19th century. It was however the French that refined the game from the original Italian version, adding the use of tokens, cards and the reading of numbers in order to advance it. The French Royal family called it Le Lotto, and very closely resembles the game as we know it today. With 27 squares held within a 9×3 grid, and numbers ranging from 1-90.
An American by the name of Hugh J Ward made the first moves to grow bingo in America. He copyrighted the name Bingo, and went on to write an official rule book. It spread from there largely with the help of another man called Edwin Lowe. He claims to have first seen the game being played under the name “Beano” in Atlanta, and that the name change came about when an overly excited woman shouted bingo instead when she had won a game. This is largely thought to be false though, as use of the name bingo can be traced back to Britain in the 1770’s, before migrating across the pond a generation before Lowe’s story.
Still having witnessed the furore that the game caused, Edwin Lowe set about taking the game from the Carnivals in Pittsburgh and into New York City, sharing it with his friends and relatives. From there it spread all over the country and by the 1940’s bingo halls had pooped up all over America. This allowed it to further migrate into South America, especially Argentina, creating true global domination. Today with the boom of online business and the big chains of bingo halls the world over; it is thought the game is worth around £1.5 billion. Not bad for a game that had such a modest start in 15th century Italy.