The history of bingo: A game that has been stirring passions for several generations

Bingo is a popular game that can be played for money and prizes. Bingo games are won when the player matches the numbers on his or her card with those randomly drawn by a caller. The first person to complete a pattern yells « Bingo ». Their numbers are verified and a prize or money is awarded. Models can be changed throughout a gaming session, keeping players interested and engaged.

The Ancestors of Bingo

The history of the game goes back to 1530, to an Italian lottery called « Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia« , which is still played every Saturday in Italy. From Italy, the game was introduced to France in the late 1770s, where it was called « Le Lotto », a game played between wealthy Frenchmen. The Germans also played a version of the game in the 1800s, but used it as a child’s game to help students learn maths, spelling and history.

In the United States, bingo was originally called « beano« . It was a fairground game where a dealer selected numbered discs from a cigar box and players marked their cards with beans. They shouted « beano » if they won.

Edwin S. Lowe and the bingo card

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 hearing someone accidentally yell « bingo » instead of « beano ».

He hired a Columbia University maths professor, Carl Leffler, to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. By 1930, Leffler had invented 6,000 different bingo cards. They were developed so that there would be fewer groups of non-repeating numbers and fewer conflicts when more than one person gets bingo at the same time.

Lowe was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. Not only did his company ES Lowe produce bingo cards, but he also developed and marketed the game Yahtzee , the rights to which he bought from a couple who played it on their yacht. His company was sold to Milton Bradley in 1973 for $26 million. Lowe died in 1986.

Church Bingo

A Catholic priest in Pennsylvania approached Lowe about using bingo as a way to raise funds for the church. As bingo began to be played in churches, it became more and more popular. By 1934, about 10,000 bingo games were being played each week. Although gambling is banned in many states, they may allow bingo games to be organized by churches and non-profit groups to raise funds.

Bingo at the casino

Bingo has been one of the games offered in many casinos, both in Nevada and those operated by Native American tribes. ES Lowe has built a hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip, the Tallyho Inn. Today, more than $90 million is spent on bingo every week in North America alone.

Bingo in retirement and nursing homes

Bingo is a popular game played for recreational therapy and socialization in qualified nursing and retirement homes. It is easy to use with only a few staff or volunteers, and residents can play with their visitors. The opportunity to win a small prize is a lure. Its popularity may decline once the older population who enjoyed church bingo in their youth moves on to the new generations raised on video games.

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