The History (And Future) Of Bingo

The game of Bingo has a long and rich history that dates back to around the reign of Henry VIII.

Originating from Italy, the game was originally a lottery called Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’italia which began somewhere around 1530. The Italian lotto game has been held almost every week since and contributes over £50 million a year in tax receipts to the government.

Having spread to France in the 1700’s, the game became known as Le Lotto and it was reported in a newspaper in 1778 that it had been picked up by the wealthy aristocrats of Paris.

Tombola is also a variant of the classic game, originating from Germany, it was primarily an educational game used in schools to teach children basic maths, spelling and history skills. This spun into a number of variants including Animal lotto, Spelling lotto and Historical lotto.

The game we now know and love was created in December 1929 when Edwin S. Lowe stumbled across the game whilst travelling to Jacksonville, George from New York. A struggling businessman, Edwin had set up a toy business a few months earlier just before the infamous Wall Street stock market crash in October 1929 which snowballed into what became the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Whilst travelling, Edwin came across a travelling German circus and saw that a game called Beano was proving to be hugely popular with the locals. Having seen this, Edwin went back to New York and invited his friends around to play the game where one woman in pure excitement shouted Bingo instead of beano which it then became known as.

The creator of this US game claimed once claimed his company – which printed bingo cards during this era, “used more newsprint than the New York Times!”. He also claimed the largest bingo game in history was held just outside of New York where 60,000 players played at the Teaneck Armory in New Jersey.

 TeanockArmory in its heyday - the setting for the world’s largest bingo game

TeanockArmory in its heyday – the setting for the world’s largest bingo game

Bingo eventually spread to the UK where it’s known the gambling element, rather than the lottery. The bingo industry has suffered quite a few setbacks in recent years with the smoking ban, increased rate of tax and rise of the internet leading to many halls shutting down. However, it still remains a popular game for millions of people around the world, with an estimated 450 halls in the UK still in operation, an estimated 50% less than the amount during its peak.

The web has had a major impact on bingo halls, sites such as Two Big Ladies offer a range of games which gives users a much bigger choice than their local bingo hall. As well as the exciting range, internet bingo is a lot more convenient for users who can play from the comfort of their home.

The first online bingo site launched in 1996 and was quickly taken up by thousands of people, mostly women, who enjoyed the chat features. The rise of internet bingo continued in 2011 when the major brands including Gala and Paddy Power began to release their own apps making it even easier to play online bingo whilst on the go.

Whilst it’s not certain if bingo halls will still be around in a few generations, the game of bingo itself continues to adapt and thrive and will be around for a long time to come.