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A brief history of Bingo

 

Bingo feels like it has been around forever. It’s one of those things you’d expect to see as part of some archaeological TV programme into the habits of the Incas or the ancient Egyptians. But the surprising thing is, it’s actually quite modern.

The earliest record of Bingo in any form is from Italy in the 1530s where it was known as Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia. From there it spread, migrating first to France where in the 1770s it was played by the aristocracy. At least it was up until the Revolution of 1848 when their numbers came up in a very different sense! In France it was known as Le Lotto.

The game was recorded in Germany in the 1800s where with typically Teutonic seriousness it was used as an educational tool. Presumably it arrived in Britain at around the same time, although the record on this is sketchy.

It is, of course, entirely in keeping with the spirit of the game that some parts of its history are nothing more than blanks!

Nowadays, we all know bingo in its current guise as an online sensation. The online bingo industry has exploded in recent years, particularly among the middle-aged female demographic but also among younger players and men. Players have been drawn to online sites as Mirror Bingo, Cheeky Bingo and 888Ladies to name but a few, thanks to attractive welcome bonuses and easy accessibility. At http://www.mirrorbingo.com/bingo for instance you only need to deposit £10 to get £40 to play with. Plus there are plenty of different themed games to choose from. It’s hard to believe that all this was born from the humble game we knew our grandmothers to play!

One thing that is not in doubt is how the game got its name. It is quite a leap from Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia to shouting ‘bingo’ after all! Here’s how it happened.

The story goes that the game was first seen in the US in 1929 at a carnival somewhere in the Vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia where it was known as ‘beano’. In those genteel times players placed beans on their cards to mark their numbers.

In the same way that the game was moulded by the German mindset in the previous century, it was now taken up with a peculiarly American zeal. A toy salesman by the name of Edwin S. Lowe adapted the game and sought to make his fortune by promoting it - not as ‘beano’ but as ‘bingo’ which he’d overheard someone in the crowd call out in error. Lowe liked the sound of ‘Bingo!’ and the rest, as they say, is history. Lowe’s company - which also came up with Yahtzee - was sold in 1973 for $26 million.

The world wide spread of the game now, not least on the back of the internet boom, means that everyone knows what bingo means. It is a huge industry that is reckoned to be worth over $90 a year in the US alone.

Anyone like Edwin Lowe who has the good fortune to grab a piece of that action will be fully entitled to shout out ‘Bingo!’.

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