90 Bingo History

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 2.54.54 AMMost people don’t realize bingo is a very old game. Thought to have begun as far back as the Middle Ages, it originated as a type of lottery game.  These games, purely based on chance, were dependent upon the drawing of random numbers. In 1530, Italy united as one country and their national lottery was born. The game, “Lo Giuoco Del Lotto d’Italia” has been held almost continuously, only pausing only for brief breaks. The similarities between this lottery and present day, “Bingo” cannot be ignored; nor can its popularity. Played weekly, the Italian State lottery is indispensable to the government’s budget, with a yearly contribution in excess of 75 million dollars.

Moving forward in time, it was reported in 1778, in France that “Le Lotto” became popular among some of the population. Here, playing cards were divided into three horizontal and nine vertical squares. Players were dealt a single card and a caller would recover a small wooden numbered token from a cloth bag, reading it aloud. The first player to cover a horizontal row was the winner.

In 1838, English archaeologist John Stephens was traveling in Mexico. He wrote of a game called “La Lotteria.” Here a caller drew numbered balls from a bag. Players used a sheet containing the numbers of 1-90, lined up in rows of five. Grains of corn were used to mark spaces. Germany saw the emergence of educational Lotto games in the 1800’s. Designed to teach children their multiplication tables, spelling and history, these games proved to be very popular. While the United Kingdom is believed to have embraced bingo closer to the end of the 1920’s- mid 1930’s.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 12.33.05 AMIn the U.S., Bingo was first “Beano!” An American toy salesman, Edwin S. Lowe, was always on the lookout for a new idea. Visiting a traveling carnival outside of Atlanta, Mr. Lowe observed a game called “Beano.” Called this because beans were used to mark spaces, the game proved immensely popular. Legend has it that the word “Bingo” was yelled instead of “Beano” by an excited winner and a new title was born. Mr. Lowe returned home and created his own cards in rows of 5×5. Realizing he needed help in creating cards, Mr. Lowe enlisted  Columbia University’s math professor, Carl Leffler. He designed 6,000 Bingo cards all with a different pattern of numbers. “Lowe’s Bingo” was eventually changed to just “Bingo.

But Mr. Lowe’s impact was not done yet. Mr. Lowe was approached by a pastor whose facilities were in severe need of repair. Working together to raise funds through Bingo, the church and parish hall were saved and a vastly popular way to raise funds was invented. Today, the game is played all over the country and it is estimated that more than $90 million dollars is spent each week on Bingo in North America, alone!

It was only natural then, that with the advent of the World Wide Web, bingo would appear as a frontrunner. Available 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week, games are available both for free as well as for money. Bingo is a great game: easy to learn, easy to play!