Bingo History

The very roots of the bingo’s family tree began in Italy in early 1500’s and it was based on the Italian lottery, referred to as “Lo Gioco del Lotto d’Italia”. The year was 1530 and that lottery is still played every Saturday to date. The European-born game took hold in France in 1778 as “Le Lotto” and the French version of the game created playing cards that had 3 rows on the horizon and 9 rows vertical, and four free spaces. The first column had numbers from 1-10 the second column had numbers from 11-20 and would continue throughout the rows to 90. A caller would reach into a bag of wooden chips from 1 to 90, and the first player that would cover a whole row was the winner.

The games popularity continued to make its way through Europe and in the 1800’s a German version was recreated for children and students to assist then in learning Math, Spelling and strangely enough, even History.

Bingo reached North America at the height of the depression years. In 1929 Bingo was known as Beano, and was being played at a carnival near Atlanta when a traveling toy salesman, Edwin S. Lowe visited the tent that was holding a Beano game. He attempted to join the game but, the tent was so full due the popularity of the game that he never had the opportunity to play. Lowe remained in the tent and observed in amazement the excitement that rolled consistently across the crowd as the game was played. Lowe was captivated by the crowd’s reaction and realized the potential profit that could be recognized with this game.

His intuitive insight inspired him to seek out a mathematician from Columbia University, Carl Leffler, who assist Lowe to increase the number of possible combinations that could be won when playing the new version of bingo cards. The result of that effort produced 6,000 different bingo cards.

When Lowe returned to New York he introduced his own version of Beano using beans, cardboard playing cards and a rubber number stamp. He presented the game to friends who were equally as excited to play his version of the game as the players that he observed at the carnival. By mid 1930 Bingo games were being played across the country in churches and social clubs.

A huge part of the successful spread of the game is attributed to the potential for fund-raising that the game could provide, when a priest in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania promoted bingo in churches. Other churches began holding bingo games to raise funding for their churches and parishes.

The name changed from Beano to Bingo when a women participating in a bingo game filled her card with a winning row and in her excitement, she accidentally yelled out the word BINGO!! And that star was born.