The Birthplace of Bingo
Bingo as we know and love it today has a surprisingly long and interesting history. Its origins are thought to be in 16th century Italy, where by 1530, an Italian Lottery called “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia” was regularly and popularly played. Testament to its appeal, it is still played every Saturday in Italy today.
By 1778 a new version of Lotto had been developed in France. The playing card for this new game was divided into three horizontal and nine vertical rows. Each horizontal row had five numbered and four blank squares in a random arrangement.
The vertical rows contained numbers from 1-10 in the first row, 11-20 in the second row, all the way up to 80-90 in the ninth row. Chips were numbered from 1 to 90. Players were dealt a single, unique Lotto card at the start of each game.
A caller then drew a series of small wooden, numbered tokens from a cloth bag and read the numbers aloud. Players covered each number as it appeared on their card. The first player to cover a horizontal row was the winner.
By the 19th century, educational Lotto games had become popular. A German Lotto game of the 1850s was designed to teach children their multiplication tables. Other educational Lotto games included ‘Spelling Lotto,’ ‘Animal Lotto,’ and ‘Historical Lotto’.
Bingo in the New World
When the game reached North America in 1929, it became known as “beano”. It was a country fair game where a dealer would select numbered discs from a cigar box and players would mark their cards with beans.
It was first played at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia. New York toy salesman Edwin Lowe renamed it “bingo”, after he overheard someone accidentally yell “bingo!” instead of “beano!”
He hired a Columbia University maths professor, Carl Leffler, to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. (It is said that Leffler then went insane.)
A Catholic priest from Pennsylvania then approached Lowe about using bingo as a means of raising church funds. When bingo started being played in churches it became increasingly popular, something which is still true today.
By the 1940s, bingo had become well-known across America, enjoying the reputation of being fun and easy-going. It also had a charitable connection, with games often being staged by churches or charity organisations.
Over Here and Widely Played
British soldiers brought bingo, known by the nickname ‘Housie’ to the UK as they returned home from World War II in 1945.
Bingo flourished in the UK, with many commercial bingo halls being established rapidly across the country. Bingo went from strength to strength, largely thanks to it reviving the interest in more public forms of entertainment that television had encouraged people to shift their attention away from. Many dance halls, theatres and cinemas that had closed were turned into bingo halls, where people could have fun, socialise and enjoy a few rounds.
This trend continued until the end of the 1980s, with the early 1990s seeing a decline in the number of UK bingo halls. These closures have been blamed on high taxes, the smoking ban and the rise in online gambling.
The Move Online
However, the fortunes of the game have improved dramatically over the last 10 years with the emergence of online bingo. The first online version was introduced in 1996, and has since become a major worldwide phenomena. With the spread of the internet and the increased availability of high-speed broadband, online bingo took off in the mid-2000s.
Current estimates suggest that there are at least 3 million UK players of online bingo, drawn the possibility of big prizes, great sign up bonuses and fun games organised by the chat hosts.
A Full House Future?
The majority of online bingo players are female, with estimates suggesting that on the whole just 20% are men. Because of the prevalence of chat rooms, we can assume that this is a direct link to the fact that there are more female players, and women are generally more sociable by nature.
Therefore to ensure a long-term future, online bingo will either have to rely on maintaining the female interest, or perhaps try to plug into the male market with targeted techniques.
There is certainly a growing diversity of technologies used to play bingo online, with people using mobiles, tablets and PCs to enjoy their gaming. So perhaps with the ever increasing ease with which online bingo can be played, there is no need for worry over its future.