The Origins of Bingo
It is widely believed that bingo’s origins are to found in Italy where the game was first created in 1530 as a lottery known as ‘Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia’. The game quickly became popular and as with other forms of gambling, such as baccarat, the game soon spread to the French aristocracy.
In France the game was known as ‘Le Lotto’ and of course, once it was firmly established there, it didn’t take long for the game to find its way to Britain. The game then gradually developed into something resembling the game that we know today and by 1778 it was immensely popular and enjoyed by a vast number of people.
Bingo truly set down roots in Britain in the 18th century, which is probably why it is still largely considered a British game to this day. It was played across cities and larger towns and as with many other forms of gambling, it was soon exported to the US, where it was also extremely popular.
How Bingo Got Its Name
There is evidence that suggests the name ‘bingo’ was first used in the United States in 1929. There is some mythology surrounding the name. Although it is hard to confirm, it is a good story.
The story suggests that there was a toy manufacturer on Long Island named Edwin S Lowe. He reportedly first played the game at a carnival in Georgia where the game was called ‘Beano’ as beans were used to mark the numbers when playing. Lowe was apparently so enamoured with the game that he took it home and started playing it with his friends. One friend was apparently so excited about winning that she would should “Bingo!” instead of “Beano!” and since then, the name has stuck.
Lowe then went on to print bingo cards, today known as tickets, which increased the number of possible combinations. He then packaged the entire game and started selling it under the name ‘Bingo’. His success selling bingo eventually led to further success, Lowe is the man behind the iconic game Yahtzee.
From that moment on, bingo continued to grow in popularity. It was hugely popular with US troops and British army and navy personnel during both World Wars. Furthermore, as the game was very simple and cheap to run, it quickly found its place as a form of distracting entertainment during the difficult interwar and post-war years. Soon, bingo events were being held to raise money for various charities and commercial projects.
Bingo also continued to grow in popularity as it was a social experience, unlike games such as slots. Friends could go for an evening to a bingo hall together, enjoy chatting while playing, and it was never looked down upon in the way that casino gambling sometimes has been.
The Rise of Online Bingo
The advent of olefin gambling was almost simultaneous with the advent of the internet. Online casinos have now existed for around 30 years and they have been embraced by eager players. Today, players can access thousands of different games in a matter of minutes and all types of players are catered for.
Therefore, it is no surprise that it didn’t take long for bingo to find its way online. In fact, it is arguable that the internet has saved bingo as bingo halls have very much fallen out of fashion in recent decades.
The size of the online bingo market is staggering. It is though that in the UK alone the industry is worth around £1.3 billion each year, and the market is growing all of the time.
It is not absolutely clear, but there it seems likely that the first online bingo site was cyberbingo.com, which launched in 1996. However, it took another 7 years for online bingo to really take off. In 2003, there was coordination between online bingo operators and online poker operators that led to a massive increase in the game’s popularity.
There was another important milestone in 2013 when 15 Network, an online bingo players’ network, went live and help take the game to the lucrative mobile gaming market. Since then, the game has exploded and there are several large bingo networks that have thousands of players online at any given time and some truly amazing prizes up for grabs.
At the same time, there has been a renaissance in the world of land bingo. Venues are increasingly managing to attract younger audiences such as students by offering special nights that involve music, dancing, and of course, cheap food and alcohol.
A Continuing Journey
There is no doubt that bingo has come a long way from 15th century Italy. In fact, arguably it has developed just as much again the last 60 years. However, it is precisely the ability to adapt bingo and make it relevant to numerous cultures and contexts that has ensured its longevity.
It is a truly international game, with origins in Italy, development in France, mass adaptation in Britain and then huge success in America. The game has even managed to handle the recent coronavirus pandemic with few problems. There were reports of socially-distanced games taking place on streets as well as games taking place between friends online using platforms such as Zoom. This is of course in addition to the flourishing online bingo market that shows no signs of slowing down.
Recent years have also seen people develop their own forms of the game. For instance, friends might construct their own cards before watching a film together. The cards contain things people expect to see in the film rather than numbers and it adds a new dimension to the fun of watching.
There is now talk about constructing virtual bingo halls in the metaverse where friends will be able to gather and player while interacting in an entirely new way. The last 500 years have been hugely exciting for bingo players and there is every chance that the next 500 years will prove to just the same.