Bingo History & Origins – How Old Is the Bingo Game?

bingo history

9 minutes

Last Updated: February 26, 2023


Bingo is one of the best-known games in the world. From modern online gambling games to more traditional lottery ones, bingo has found its way into many niches, in one form or another.

Americans have enjoyed it feverishly since the 20th century and Brits since the 18th century, but the game’s history spans far longer.

With that in mind, do you know when and where bingo originates from? We’ll go over the game’s history, future, and see how it has evolved into the game millions love and play nowadays at live bingo halls and at various online casinos.

When Was Bingo Invented?

Bingo was invented around 1530 and is one of the oldest gambling games still actively played worldwide.

To answer the question of where did bingo originate from, the game comes from an Italian game called Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia. This was a lottery-type game played by the Italian aristocracy.

Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia quickly spread to neighboring countries by the end of the 16th century. It first spread to France, where it was popularized under the name Le Lotto. Like in Italy, this game was mostly enjoyed by the upper levels of French society at the time.

It’s widely accepted that the game then found its way from France to Great Britain and most of Europe by the 18th century. In this period, it was introduced to most of society and was not only a game reserved for the rich.

when was bingo invented

In the 19th century, a similar version of the game was used in Germany to educate kids on various topics. Called Tombola, this German variation helped children learn multiplication tables, spelling, and more.

In the next few centuries, the game remained relatively unchanged, apart from a few standardization rules.

It became a popular pastime for gambling fans around the world. Bingo was introduced to casinos and even commonly used for variously leisurely and charity activities.

The History of Bingo in the US – A Quick Overview

Most casual players believe bingo has uniform rules in all parts of the globe. However, this is not the case.

The bingo version played in the UK and most parts of the world differs from the American version. The differences aren’t immense but are still noticeable.

For starters, the biggest dissimilarity between the two bingo versions is that the US one has 75 balls, compared to the UK version, which has 90 balls. Additionally, there are also slight differences between the bingo cards.

The origins of US and UK versions follow the same path up until the early 20th century. The US version originated from the same Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia and came to America, most likely with the British.

In the early 1920s, American inventor and entrepreneur Hugh J. Ward created a standardized version of the game for players in Pittsburgh and adjacent areas. A few years later, he copyrighted the game and published a rulebook.

Edwin S. Lowe, a toymaker and traveling salesman, further popularized this game in the country. Still, the origins of the name remain unknown.

Some claim that it simply stems from the similarity of this word with the sound of a bell. Others believe the name originates from the primary name, “beano,” as the game was played using dried beans and simple cardboard sheets.

The golden age of bingo in the US was around WWII and slightly after. And, while the game has been on a slow decline in popularity since then, it has enjoyed more attention from younger generations in the past couple of decades.

Nowadays, commercial bingo games where players can play for money are primarily offered in casinos in Las Vegas and Native American bingo halls across the nation.

That said, in the US, bingo is mostly staged by charity organizations or churches for modest and symbolic stakes.

How Is Modern Bingo Played?

The standardization of the game in the 20th century fixed many of the rules that still remain today. So, after going over the game’s long and interesting history, let’s take a closer look into what this game has evolved by

As the UK version is the more popular and common one, we’ll use it as an example of how to play bingo.

A standard UK bingo ticket has 27 spaces. These are spread across nine columns and three horizontal rows. Each of the three rows contains five numbers and four blank spaces.

There can be variations in how these numbers are arranged. But, typically, each of the nine columns can contain specific numbers. For example, the first column includes numbers from 1 to 10, the second from 11 to 20, and so on.

how old is bingo

Although players can buy single tickets, these tickets are created in strips of six. This process allows the manufacturer to include all 90 numbers.

So, if you buy all six tickets, you are guaranteed to mark every number called. That said, this doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed any sort of profit.

The gameplay is very straightforward, as players don’t have to do much apart from listening to the number the presenter calls out and marking them on their tickets.

Still, this requires a good deal of concentration so as not to miss out on any number.

The numbers can be drawn from a bag, a mechanical draw machine, or even randomly selected by RNG computer software. After the numbers for a round are drawn, the winners are declared, and the new round starts.

Who Are the Biggest Bingo Winners in History?

Bingo is not generally associated with multi-million wins like many other gambling games. However, there have been many bingo players that have topped one million in bingo winnings. Here’s a list of the biggest bingo winners in history:

Georgios – £5,100,000

The biggest win in bingo history was achieved by a man simply known as Georgios, who wished to stay anonymous after his massive jackpot.

While the record bingo win is often attributed to John Orchard, he actually won his jackpot playing an online slot on a bingo website.

While it’s unknown which game the mysterious Georgios played, it’s commonly accepted that it was a progressive jackpot bingo game.

After his big win in 2009, Georgios disappeared back into anonymity, hopefully, to enjoy his millions and a life well lived.

Lisa Porter – £1,364,000

When Lisa Porter was bored one June evening because her husband was watching a Euro 2012 game, she never expected that her £5 would turn into a life-changing win.

bingo origins

But, the few spare minutes she decided to spend playing bingo online provided her and her husband a way out of a hard financial situation they were in at the time.

Soraya Lowell – £1,167,000

Soraya Lowell is certainly the biggest bingo winner when it comes to players that have won playing in a traditional bingo hall.

These events rarely get to such massive jackpot prizes, but Soraya Lowell was lucky enough to line up the winning numbers on one fateful night back in 2008.

A heartwarming part of this story is that she split her winnings with her neighbor and bingo partner.

Unfortunately, Soraya Lowell also declared bankruptcy a few years later, showing that winning money on its own doesn’t mean a lot without proper financial guidance and help.

Anita Campbell – £1,149,000

Anita Campbell’s bingo story is truly one of the most inspiring ones for all bingo fans. In 2019, just hours after creating an account on an online bingo site and still during her first session, she won an amazing jackpot of £597,000.

But, this story gets even crazier. In the days after the win, she continued playing occasionally, only to hit another jackpot. This time, another £552,000 came her way just ten days after the initial win.

Online Bingo – Taking the Game into the Future

Bingo was a fairly prevalent game worldwide, even before the invention of the Internet. But, with the introduction of online bingo games, the game skyrocketed in popularity.

The earliest confirmed bingo site launched in 1996 and was called Bingo Zone. This website only allowed users to play for free, as the legality of online gambling wasn’t regulated to any significant degree.

history of bingo

Soon after, many new bingo sites started popping up. Websites began to offer players the opportunity to play real money bingo. By the early 2000s, there were dozens of sites where online gamblers could enjoy this classic game.

As the online gambling community continued to grow, bingo evolved with it. In the 2010s, it became more widely available to mobile and tablet users.

This opened an entirely new market of people, as users could now play bingo on the move, any time they wanted.

In the UK, a country where bingo enjoys arguably one of the biggest global player bases, the introduction of online bingo affected the activity of many players country-wide.

From 2005 to 2014, the number of bingo halls and clubs in the country sharply declined, going from 600 to 400 in less than a decade. And, this number continued steadily going down even more since then.

Nowadays, nearly every online gambling site that features bingo games allows you to play around the clock. You can interact with other players online and enjoy a social gambling experience while playing bingo from the comfort of your home.

While there’s no telling what lies in the future for this game, the history of bingo has proven that this game can keep up with the times.

Bingo’s origins span back almost five hundred years. And, going by how much this game is loved worldwide, there’s no doubt that it has much more to give moving forward.

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