Thursday Throwback for Fun: The History of Bingo


A game with worldwide appeal, which is no longer stereotyped based on age or gender, bingo is a massive part of the gambling industry. With over 3 million Brits playing bingo in halls and a further 100 million playing online all over the world on websites such as:, we take a look back to where it all began for the world of bingo. So, pick a mate (that’s 68) and a cup of tea (number 3) and find out more.

Bingo Origins and variations

Bingo is said to have originated in Italy in 1530, from an Italian lottery called Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia, which is still played every Saturday. Believe it or not, the Saturday night lotto is very similar to the 90-ball game played today. Players had cards with rows and winning numbers were pulled from a sack.

200 years later and bingo was introduced in France, as Le Lotto. The playing card used here consisted of three horizontal and nine vertical rows and players were dealt a card each. The caller would reveal small wooden tokens from a cloth bag and read the number out, while players would scramble to cover a horizontal row.

In the 1800s, bingo made its way over to Germany and was used as an educational tool. In 1850, a German lotto game was introduced to teach children multiplication. Other games were invented, including ‘Spelling Lotto’, ‘Animal Lotto’ and ‘Historical Lotto’.

Bingo also took the UK by storm in the 1800s and is equally as popular today – despite the game not changing much over the years. The UK is most famous for the tradition that’s known as ‘Bingo Lingo’ – the name for the famous calls that are steeped in history, originating from cockney rhyming slang.

The game reached America as late as 1929, where it initially was known as Beano, due to beans being used to cover the numbers. It is believed to have first been played at a carnival in Georgia. The name Bingo came about when New York toy salesmen Edwin S. Lowe overheard a winner accidently shout “Bingo” and believed that would be a better name.

The rise of online bingo

Bingo first took the online stage in 1996, with a free-play game called Bingo Zone. Since then, bingo has come on in leaps and bounds, not just in regards to the software involved, but also the gaming numbers. Technological advances mean that players can play online any time on a number of websites or apps, whether they have a desktop PC or laptop, mobile phone, or tablet.

There are a wide variety of games on offer, with differing entry prices and pay-outs – and of course, there’s the sociable aspect, allowing players to interact 24/7. The biggest online bingo game was held in Tokyo, Japan, with a record turnout of 493,824 players. But with more than 10,000 games of bingo being played each day online, it’s fair to say the game has come a long way since its humble beginnings of the 1500s!


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