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The history of bingo

The History of Bingo

The origins of bingo can be traced back to the unification of Italy in the 1530s. ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia’ was the first state run lottery which was played every Saturday. From Italy, the game spread to France as ‘Le Lotto’ where it was extremely popular amongst the French upper classes. The Germans also played a version of the game, but it was used to teach children maths, spelling and history.

Bingo was originally a European country fair game ? the booth owner would select numbered discs from a box and players would mark their cards with beans, hence the name Beano. The first player to cover a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line on their card with beans would shout ‘Beano!,’ and claim a prize.

In the 1930s Edwin S. Lowe, a travelling salesman came upon the game of Beano at a carnival in Germany, and decided, upon seeing the games popularity, to bring the idea back to America with him. Legend has it that when Lowe introduced the game to his friends, one of them got quite excited when she won and called out ‘Bingo!’ instead of ‘Beano!,’ and Bingo was born!

Lowe originally released a 12 and a 24 card set, costing $1 and $2 respectively. The popularity of the game was spreading and was being used to fund-raise by a priest in Pennsylvania, but there was a problem in that the cards were delivering too many winners rather than the desired one or two, as previously they hadn’t been played by groups of players. The priest employed the services of a university mathematician at Colombia University, Carl Leffler, who invented 6000 different bingo card numerical variations. Bearing in mind there were no computers to help complete this task, the poor mathematician was driven insane ? but the result was that there was now just one winner per bingo game.

Bingo didn’t become widely acknowledged until 1960, when the Gaming Act permitted such games to be played in members-only establishments. In 1968 a Gaming Board was set up to regulate Bingo clubs and another act was passed which allowed clubs to play bingo with cash prizes via tabletop coin slots. Bingo proved so popular that Bingo Halls were set up in all major towns in the UK, many of which still exist or have been revived in recent years.

Many people tried to imitate Lowe’s bingo game, but as he did not own the game, he asked that his competitors pay him $1 a year in return for using the name Bingo. This has resulted in Bingo being the generic name of all the variations of the game that exist today, including online bingo.

Online bingo has become extremely popular and figures released in 2007 by Global betting and Gaming Consultants, in a single year online Bingo generated wins of over ?70 million, and it is predicted that the expected return on Bingo wins will reach ?164 million by the year 2013! Bingo broadly appeals to women, with 85% of all online players being women.

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