Who Invented Bingo?


Due to its simplicity and low stakes, Bingo is a lottery-type game we all love. Its transparent rules and dynamics attract players of all ages. But how did this game come to be? From the dawn of creation to the name itself, we’re here to tell you a tale of Bingo.

Who Invented Bingo — History

What comes to your mind when someone mentions Bingo? I bet you it’s a retirement home with grumpy grannies looking at their bingo cards and holding their teeth in while shouting the magic word.

There’s a common misconception that Bingo game is a dull game for the old folks. Even though rounds can take up to fifteen minutes at times, it’s relaxing and easy to learn. And with the development of online games, Bingo started shifting towards the world of the Internet, as bingo halls are gradually getting replaced by online casinos. Nowadays, there are even strategies for playing online Bingo which help players choose the winning card.

But where does this popular game originate from? The word itself doesn’t help determine its country of origin. It can mean anything in any language, really (probably due to the fact that it means nothing). To reach its roots, we have to look all the way back to the 16th century.

Bingo’s Italian and European Roots

Who invented Bingo — this captivating, simple game? The history of Bingo dates back to Italy in the early 1500s. The locals organized a national lottery called Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia. If you’re familiar with Italian, this archaic name pinpoints to how old this lottery is. The game they invented had the same name as the commission. And on a bit of a side note, the Italian lottery is still active to this day and runs gaming events each week.

After almost two centuries, we find a German version of Bingo, but not as a game of fortune. People didn’t play Bingo; instead, they used the game as a base to teach kids multiplication tables. Nevertheless, Bingo wasn’t the only lotto-style game used in educational purposes. For instance, there was ‘Historical Lotto,’ ‘Animal Lotto,’ and even ‘Spelling Lotto.’

Moreover, there was a French version, Le Lotto — a fancy-named game reserved for the French aristocracy. Le Lotto was the next installment of Bingo. There, the playing card contained three horizontal and nine vertical lines, and the numbers went from 1 to 90. Numbered and blank squares were always in a random arrangement, and each playing card was unique. The first player who covered a horizontal row was the winner.

From France, this game moved on to the United Kingdom, and then, it finally arrived in the United States at the beginning of the 1920s. At this point, the Italian, French, and the German Bingo types combined into one. The United Kingdom’s name for the game was Beano since it was played with dried beans, and the winners yelled ‘Beano’ each time their numbers were drawn.


Crossing the Pond

In the early 20s of the last century, Hugh J. Ward brought the game overseas, particularly to Pittsburgh. At first, it was a carnival game called Beano — another variation of Le Lotto before it reached its final form. It was the most popular game there, as the booth with Beano attracted the biggest crowd.

You’d receive a card, and the caller would pull out numbers from a tobacco box. And if you had the number that was called out, you’d place a dried bean over it on your card. The winner would be the first player who connected a line of numbers, be it vertically, diagonally, or horizontally. Additionally, when someone won, they would shout “Beano!” Ward went far in trying to standardize Beano, as he published its rulebook in 1933.

How Did People Play Bingo in the Past — Go, Bean, Go!

A struggling toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe saw this game played at a carnival in Atlanta, Georgia. Lowe liked this game, which was called Beano, and saw a straw of salvation in it since his toy factory fell apart. Thus, he took the game over to New York, where his friends learned how to play Bingo (back then, still called Beano), and loved it from the get-go. The game was so popular that Edwin decided to improve it and make the largest Bingo game in the Western countries.

Edward Lowe created two types of Bingo games, with 12 and 24-card sets. Lowe, trying to make the game more mass-production-friendly, hired a mathematician Carl Leffler to come up with 6000 unique and new Bingo cards. It is said that these cards drove Leffler insane. It all took off from there, and by the 1940s, people were playing Bingo all throughout the United States.

We don’t know for certain who was the first person who named the game Bingo though. Of course, someone had to show up with the story of “Someone just called ‘Bingo!’ instead of ‘Beano!’ in excitement,” but there’s no proof to it. Still, it’s a cute story, and the one we’d like to believe in. It’s safe to say that it derived from the name Beano, but how, why, and when remains a mystery. However, what we do know is that in 1942, Lowe became the patent holder of a modern Bingo card.

We consider the fact this simple game of chance survived throughout the centuries amazing. In a nutshell, Bingo isn’t going anywhere, since online casinos decided to make this game an essential part of their game offers.

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