The Evolution of Bingo

Bingo-Balls” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by digby fire dept

Bingo. It’s a game that’s enjoyed the world over and even given a number of different names including lotto, keno and even beano.

Pretty much everyone will know of the game, but far fewer will know about its long and fascinating evolution that is said to have begun back in 16th century Italy. The game played back then was called Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia and was remarkably similar to the versions we enjoy today.

From Italy, the game quickly spread through Europe where some countries even used it as an educational tool to teach subjects as diverse as maths and spelling.

But it wasn’t until the 1930s in America that the modern form of the game saw its birth. A travelling toy salesman called Edwin S. Lowe noticed that a game called “beano” was being played at many of the state fairs he visited on business. It was called this because players used dried beans to cover the numbers on their cards as they were called out.

Seeing its potential, Lowe renamed it with the snappier title “bingo” and took out a patent on printed bingo cards. The game proved to be a huge success and it was soon being played all over America.

During the Second World War it was also a very popular form of entertainment for US troops, often fighting alongside their British counterparts. So it’s no big surprise that many of the latter brought the game home with them to the UK at the end of the war.

Bingo!” (CC BY 2.0) by Photographing Travis

The 1950s created the perfect environment for the game to really take off. The advent of television meant that many cinemas were closing their doors. These large, grand buildings were perfect for conversion into bingo halls and before long most towns and cities had at least one venue.

The game continued to thrive throughout the 1960s and into the 70s. But, like most things, it gradually lost its appeal as other, more enticing, leisure activities emerged. So, once again, many of the former cinemas which had become bingo halls started to close down.

But the arrival of online casinos in the 1990s had a surprising knock-on effect, one that saw the re-birth of the game. Because it was such an easy activity to create online, many dedicated bingo sites began to spring up introducing a whole new generation to the game.

These  soon proliferated and, as the technology advanced, even made it possible to play Big Bingo at and other similar sites. Here you’ll find many different types and themes of the game as well as both the 75 and 90 ball versions of the game

As to where the future of bingo lies, it’s very definitely online, building on the success it’s already achieved. There’s also a strong possibility that virtual reality could be used to create even more involving bingo experiences – something that would be sure to create an even bigger success that it has already achieved.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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