The origin of the bingo game which is played nowadays can be traced back to an Italian lottery named “Lo Giuco Del Lotta d’Italia” which used to be held in Italy in the 1530’s. It was a form of gambling which was vehemently opposed by the powerful Christian Church at that time. Even then, it became very popular amongst Italian people as a favorite pastime.
This lottery spread to France in the 1778’s and became equally popular among the French people. The Church in France too was against this kind of gambling but it could not stop the spread of this lottery in France. During the 1800’s, the vehement opposition by the Church only made this lottery and other such types of gambling become more popular with their spread all over Europe. With the spreading of this game to all parts of Europe, bingo started to be played with the help of square matrices drawn on table tops. The matrix on each table would have 9 columns in vertical and 3 rows in horizontal similar to the modern game using 90 balls. There would be five squares filled with nos. and 4 blank squares at random in each row. The numbers in the squares would range from 1 to 10 for the first column, 11 to 20 in the second column, and 21 to 30 in the third column and so on until the last column, which would have numbers ranging from 81 to 90. Similar to the modern bingo game, each table would have a definite number.
In the 1920’s, the game was exported from Europe to the United States. It became Americanized very quickly and came to be called “Beano” as the cards started to be marked with beans (please do not sneeze!). In the new version of bingo which came into existence, a new system of drawing the numbers from a cigar-box was started. The game of bingo became more popular in the rural villages than in the urban districts because of the strong anti-gambling laws enforced in cities and towns.
Edwin Lowe, a vendor from New York, first introduced the game of bingo to New York in 1929, and made it popular there. In an established incident, about which neither the date nor the circumstances are known, a player playing near Lowe got up from his chair and called “Bingo” instead of “Beano” to indicate that the player had won. Since Lowe liked the word “Bingo” which was more attractive than the word “Beano”, the name Bingo became the name of the game as it is known today. Edwin Lowe was responsible for the popularity of the game spreading all over New York and the rest of the United States.
Edwin Lowe wanted to create more cards than the initial 900 cards which would enable a single player to win more often in a bingo game. With the help of Carl Leffler, a professor of maths, he created 6000 cards with unique numbers. To create these unique cards and get them perfect, Lowe created so much pressure on Leffler, that it is believed that Leffler lost his sanity forever.
The popularity of the bingo game knew no bounds after being perfected by Lowe. To his surprise, Lowe discovered that the Church had become his greatest business partner. The more the Church enforced the ban on the game, the more it spread through various networks. The popularity was greatest in the remote northern territory of the United States. Every week more than 10,000 bingo games used to be played there. Presently, a huge number of games are played each day in the United States and all over the World. The bingo game has spread everywhere, including small religious groups and huge online populations. The revenue collected from bingo games worldwide runs into millions of dollars. Today the Bingo game is among the three topmost gambling games including Backgammon and Poker. Each day the prize money offered in a bingo game is increasing. More and more people are flocking to play a game of bingo each day as it is so easy to play. This is how the game of bingo evolved starting from the 1530’s to the present day.
Gamble Aware (www.gambleaware.co.uk) is managed by the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, an independent charity which funds treatment, research and education about responsible gambling. The website has been developed by a Task Force made up of representatives from the Gambling Commission, DCMS, academia and industry.