History of Bingo

April 25, 2017

It is very important to know the origin of the game we always wanted to play as this will guide and encourage us to play more seriously and gaily. Bingo as we know it today is a form of lottery and is a direct descendant of Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia.When Italy was united in 1530, the Italian National Lottery Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia was organized, and has been held, almost without pause, at weekly intervals to this date. Today the Italian State lottery is indispensable to the government’s budget, with a yearly contribution in excess of 75 million dollars.

In 1778 it was reported in the French press that Le Lotto had captured the fancy of the intelligentsia. In the classic version of Lotto, which developed during this period, the playing card used in the game was divided into three horizontal and nine vertical rows. Each horizontal row had five numbered and four blank squares in a random arrangement. The vertical rows contained numbers from 1 to 10 in the first row, 11 to 20 in the second row, et cetera, up to 90. No two Lotto cards were alike. Chips numbered from 1 to 90 completed the playing equipment. Players were dealt a single Lotto card, and then the caller would draw a small wooden, numbered token from a cloth boag and read the number aloud. The players would cover the number if it appeared on their card. The first player to cover a horizontal row was the winner. In the 1800′s educational Lotto games became popular. A German Lotto game of the 1850s was designed to teach children their multiplication tables. There were other educational Lotto games such as ‘Spelling Lotto,’ ‘Animal Lotto,’ and ‘Historical Lotto.” Even in today’s highly competitive toy and game market, Lotto is holding its own; Milton Bradley sells a Lotto game featuring the Sesame Street Muppets. The game is designed to provide children in the 3 to 6 year age range with a splash of fun while, at the same time, teaching them to count and recognize numbers.

In the U.S., bingo was originally called “beano”. It was a country fair game where a dealer would select numbered discs from a cigar box and players would mark their cards with beans. They yelled “beano” if they won. When the game reached North America in 1929, it became known as “beano”. It was first played at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia. New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe renamed it “bingo” after he overheard someone accidentally yell “bingo” instead of “beano”. He hired a Columbia University math professor, Carl Leffler, to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. By 1930, Leffler had invented 6,000 different bingo cards. [It is said that Leffler then went insane.

A Catholic priest from Pennsylvania approached Lowe about using bingo as a means of raising church funds. When bingo started being played in churches it became increasingly popular. By 1934, an estimated 10,000 bingo games were played weekly, and today more than $90 million dollars are spent on bingo each week in North America alone.


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