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The History of Bingo

Bingo has long been a favorite game of people of all ages - from kids in school learning their letters and numbers to seniors at the bingo hall. Whether playing at school, at church or at home playing internet bingo, people continue to be drawn to the game. It should come as no surprise that the history of bingo is both long and interesting.

The history of bingo dates back to Italy in the 1530s. The country had recently unified and, in an effort to raise funds, began a lottery called “Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia.” This lottery is played in Italy to this day. In the 1770s the game gained popularity in France under the name “Le Lotto,” which was similar to today’s bingo. In the 1800’s, Lotto gained popularity as a children’s educational tool. Games were created to teach children about history, spelling, arithmetic and more.

By 1929, bingo was being played in the United States as “beano.” Edwin Lowe, the owner of a struggling toy company, came upon the game being played at a country fair in Georgia. He saw a man pulling small wooden disks from a box and shouting out numbers. Players at the tables scanned the cards in front of them and placed a bean on the card if they found the number. If a player filled a line of numbers with beans, he shouted out, “beano” and received a prize. The group played enthusiastically until the wee hours of the night.

Lowe returned home, made some beano cards and invited some friends over to play. Before long, they were playing with as much fervor as the Georgia crowd had. When one player who was caught up in the excitement mistakenly shouted “bingo” instead of “beano,” Lowe had an “aha” moment. He knew then that he would manufacture the game and change its name to bingo.

There were originally two options available for Lowe’s bingo: a twelve card game and a twenty-four card game. Before long a priest contacted Lowe, saying that he hoped to use bingo to raise funds for his church, but he needed many more than twenty-four cards. Lowe then hired Carl Leffler, a mathematics professor at Columbia University, to create 6000 unique bingo playing cards. It is said that with some prodding from Lowe, Leffler was able to complete the 6000 cards, but went mad from the effort. Bingo was a huge success with the public, putting Lowe’s toy company on solid financial footing.

A new page is currently being written in the history of bingo, as technology has brought us internet bingo. Now players can go online from the comfort of their own homes and play. Internet bingo can be played on free sites or for a fee on sites with prizes, including cash and vacations. Some sites feature variations on the game, where instead of filling a line across the card, the players must fill in a pattern on the card. Many internet bingo sites offer chat areas on the screen, where players can type messages to one another while playing the game. After almost five hundred years, bingo has entered the internet age and continues to bring enjoyment to its players.

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