Bingo History

Bingo is a beloved game enjoyed by every age group. Are you curious about Bingo history? Learn who invented bingo, and where it originates from.

Bingo! You've probably seen or heard it on TV, at the fairgrounds, or in your grandma's house. It's a favorite pastime for people of all ages. But how much do you know about this game? Read more to find out everything you need to know about Bingo history.

Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia

bingo circular icon

There are many speculations as to who invented Bingo. Bingo history first started in 16th century Italy as the game called Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia. It loosely translates into either "the clearance of the lot of Italy" or "the game of the lotto of Italy."

Fundamentally, Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia has the same mechanics as bingo and the modern lotto. Players need to choose a set of numbers, and the winning set of numbers are drawn using wheels. Whoever hits the most winning numbers wins.

Due to its popularity in Italy, the game quickly spread to neighboring countries. In 1778, France was the first country to incorporate Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia into its culture. French aristocrats first played it in the country and called it Le Lotto. Some might say that it's the original bingo.

The game involved a playing card much similar to the card used in the British 90-ball bingo. It's, by far, the original bingo card. Every player had a single card. Numbers 1 to 90 were written on a small piece of wood and placed in a cloth bag. The caller will draw one out and read the number out loud. A player wins when they cover a single row.

After more than a century, another reiteration of bingo rose in 19th century Germany. The Germans tackled the game in a logical sense by using it for educational purposes. Like Le Lotto, students have playing cards. However, Germans filled the bingo cards with words, math equation answers, or animal names instead of numbers.

Beano and Bingo

The concept of Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia and Le Lotto swam across the Atlantic Ocean. Bingo history made its way to the American hearts with the help of two individuals, Hugh J. Ward and Edwin Lowe. These individuals can somewhat suffice to the question "who invented bingo?"

During the early 1920s, Hugh J. Ward started incorporating bingo in carnivals in Pittsburgh. The game was very similar to the European version. It required playing cards, someone to call the numbers, and a cigar box with numbered wooden disks.

Along the way, the game got the name Beano. The reason behind the name was very direct to the point. They were using dried beans to mark the numbers called on their playing cards. It was only apt to call it Beano. If someone completes a row or the whole card, they will shout "Beano!" so other players will know.

The shouting was not part of the original bingo game. Most people thought that a player got too excited that they won and shouted bean. The caller might have misheard it as beano, and it stuck. Bingo also came from that kind of origin. A player got their tongue-tied while saying beano and shouted bingo instead.

The focal point of the history of bingo was Edwin Lowe. In 1929, a toy merchandiser named Edwin Lowe encountered the game when he visited a traveling carnival in Atlanta. Lowe brought the game to the New York gambling scene and operated some games. The game also used the same equipment used in the carnival.

When it was a big hit across the USA, Ward created a home version of the game. He wrote a rulebook for it and registered a copyright in 1933. The book was described as "Bingo, a modern game adapted to commercial use, to advertise merchandise and to stimulate sales." He did not, however, renew the copyright.

Carl Leffler Bingo Cards

Bingo was quickly becoming popular in the 1940s. Lowe saw this rise to fame and decided to mass-produce the game. During that time, his Bingo game had two versions with different pricing. There was a 12-card set for $1.00 and a 24-card set for $2.00. He also used Ward's rulebook to standardize the game.

However, players need to have bingo cards with a unique and non-repeating group of numbers to have an effective game. Naturally, a 12-card or a 24-card set will have one or two winners. The problem lies in bigger groups like a church fundraising event.

A priest talked to Lowe about his problem as he had more than ten winners when using multiple card sets. Lowe then asked Carl Leffler, a mathematics professor at Columbia University, to commission 6,000 bingo cards. Manually creating random sets of numbers is challenging, and some say that Leffler went insane after completing it. Eventually, the modern-day bingo card was patented in 1942.

By the end of World War II, people and some governments saw Bingo as a revenue channel and entertainment. The German educational version died down and was snubbed.

Betting and Gaming Act 1960

Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia and Le Lotto came to the British soils during the Bingo craze of the Americans. The British people played most bingo games recreationally, and money during games was highly prohibited. However, like in America, the British government saw the game as a revenue generator. The game was a perfect money maker to restore morale and repair the country.

The Betting and Gaming Act 1960 was introduced as one of the biggest laws in Bingo history. It paved the way for other forms of gambling and betting like bingo to become widely accepted. The British Act of Parliament also made it possible for these games to have large cash prizes.

The Advent of Modern eBingo

With all the bingo terms, eBingo is the most popular, which is short for electronic Bingo. Some people often confuse eBingo as online bingo. eBingo made the game more digital. The game is still played in bingo halls, but owners install more eBingo machines. It's either to go paperless or to earn more.

eBingo machines work like paper bingo cards. The difference is you can get more cards with eBingo, which increases your chances of winning. Another difference is you don't need any pen or marker to cross out the numbers. You simply tap on the touchscreen of the machine, and it will mark the number.

Bingo History (Timeline)
Bingo History Timeline - The Main Milestones

History of Bingo: FAQ

Here are some answers to the most common questions about the history of bingo.

What was the first form of bingo?

The first original bingo was Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia. It was first introduced in Italy in the 16th century.

How was bingo played in France during the 1770s?

The French played their version of bingo, Le Lotto, like how the British 90-ball bingo is played today. They used a 3x9 playing card, complete with random numbers and banks. To win, a player must complete a row.

Why did Edwin S. Lowe call his bingo game Beano?

The early name of the original Bingo in the US was Beano. It was called so because a player got too excited and shouted bean. The caller might have misheard it as beano. Beano is also derived from the fact that people use dried beans as markers.

What Happened to E.S. Lowe Company?

Milton Bradley Company bought the company in 1973 for $26 million.

What is eBingo?

eBingo is an electronic machine used specifically for playing Bingo. It's different from online bingo as eBingo is played in Bingo halls. The touchscreen machine automates the Bingo player's overall experience and lets you buy more than the standard number of cards.

Bingo's history spans centuries and continents. It has survived to become a game enjoyed by people from all walks of life - and it's still going strong!