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The Brief History of Bingo

Bingo originated from a lottery in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century. When Italy was unified in 1530, the country-wide lottery named Lo Gioco del Lotto d'Italia was born. Lo Gioco Del Lotto d'Italia, now called Lotterie Nazionali, is still played in Italy every Saturday and it has become an important revenue source for the Italian government.

At some point it migrated from Italy to France where it became very popular among the wealthy upper-class under the name of Le Lotto in the late 1700’s. The initial Le Lotto cards had three rows and nine columns with five numbers and four blank spots placed randomly in each row. The first column had numbers from one to ten, the second from 11 to 20 and so on up to 90. Numbers were wooden tokens drawn from a sack by a caller. Each player had one card and the first player to cover all five numbers in a horizontal row was declared the winner.

During the 1800s, Germans used a different variation of the game for educational purposes mainly to teach their kids the multiplication table.

Bingo was brought to the United States during the 1920s by a pitchman whose name is now lost in the annals of history. Prior to coming to the United States the pitchman was traveling with a carnival in Germany where he came across the game called Lotto. He modified a few rules and called it Beano. Players used beans to cover the numbers and shouted Beano! when horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines were covered.

Edwin S. Lowe, a toy salesman from New York, was driving to Jacksonville, Georgia in December of 1929. He was a few miles away from the city when he was attracted by the lights of a county fair. He stopped and was mesmerized by the room full of people playing Beano. He waited ‘till late at night and after the game, spoke to the pitchman who told him the story of how he came up with the game.

When Lowe returned to New York, he started playing the game with his friends at home. One night when calling the numbers, he saw that one woman was getting very excited and when she closed the line her tongue froze and she stuttered “B-b-bingo” by mistake. And that’s how the name came to be.

At the beginning, Lowe only had 24 unique cards in the bingo set and the next step in Bingo evolution is owed to a Catholic priest from Pennsylvania whose parish was suffering from a lack of donations. The Father purchased few of Lowe’s sets and used them in the same game to raise charity and, of course, quickly realized there was more than one winner in each draw.

To solve the problem, Lowe hired professor of mathematics at Columbia University, Carl Leffler, to make 6,000 bingo cards with unique number combinations. The professor delivered, but lost his sanity in the process. In the 1930s, bingo spread like fire throughout churches across the nation.

After this, it was impossible for Lowe to thwart the imitators so he graciously asked them to pay one dollar a year in fees and called the game Bingo.

Nowadays, bingo is played everywhere worldwide – in churches, at social gatherings, at fund raisers, etc.

Online bingo is gaining popularity very fast due to its convenience – sometimes we are too tired to drive to the bingo hall and nothing is more relaxing than a few games of bingo. You can also play free bingo online if you don’t feel like spending a buck or two.

Bob Acton

Bingo Online


About the Author: Bob is an experienced sports writer and handicapper, who has written for the sports industry for over 10 years. His years of writing for Sports Scene, sports consulting on 33 Made for Television and Major Motion Pictures and his work as an instructor at Pro Teach Baseball Academy, have made Bob a trusted and respected source in the sports world.




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