The Evolution of Bingo

Paul Clare
Last updated on 4th Apr 2023 by Paul Clare

In recent years, there has been a surge in bingo’s popularity, and many cite the development of the internet as the direct cause for this. Online bingo offers a fun, relaxed experience that you can enjoy from the comfort of your home, and it has introduced brick and mortar bingo halls to many of the younger generation, breaking the ancient stereotype that they’re just for the old folks.

Also, with new bingo sites popping up all the time, it makes the game incredibly accessible, so it’s easy to see why more and more people are getting in on the craze. But while many people know bingo as a game made for fun and social interaction in mind, did you know it has an incredibly rich and colourful history?

Stranger still is when we go back to its roots, which by the way are nearly 500 years old, it can be hard to recognise the game we all know and love today.

Bingo Begins: The Origin Story

While the recent move to the online world has seen bingo hall numbers decline, the game was a staple of the UK for many years, with over 600 dedicated halls up and down the land. However, the game itself was born in Italy as a spin-off of the Italian lottery, or “Lo giuoco del lotto d’Italia” as they more gracefully name it, which translates to “The Clearance of the Lot of Italy”, a tradition so beloved by the people, it’s still being played to this day.

It’s a game that involves players drawing 10 numbers at 10 different draw wheels, 5 numbers are then selected at each wheel and a person with matching number combinations would win a big sum of money.

This eventually became ‘Le Lotto’ in 1530 when it was adopted by France, and became a treasured game to the nobility. ‘Le Lotto’ took elements of the Italian lottery game, and combined it with game cards. These game cards had a simple layout:

  • Nine vertical rows
  • Three horizontal rows
  • Five unique numbers that ranged from 1 to 90

Wooden numbered chips were drawn from a drum and the person to form the first complete horizontal line was declared the champion. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it? Well, that’s because this is the structure that closely resembles the bingo games people all over the world play today.

Good Game, Old Chap

While many might associate bingo as a game geared toward a more female audience (although we know you guys love it just as much, admit it), when ‘Le Lotto’ made its way to France, it was mainly played by the male population.

This was down to the fact that the majority of France’s nobility at the time were males, so they were the people that could afford to play it.

Bingo actually remained a male populated game up until after the Second World War, where the British and the American troops adopted it as a good way to use their downtime. It also promoted a lot of compadre-ship between the allied countries serving in the war, although they would know the game as ‘beano’ (not to be mistaken with the home of Dennis the Menace) because they’d be using beans to mark their cards.

There is also a myth that the name ‘Bingo’ came from an American soldier accidentally shouting ‘bingo!’ instead of ‘beano!’.

While a good story, it is just that, as the name actually originated in 1928 when Edwin Lowe, a toymaker from America, overheard a conversation where ‘beano’ was mispronounced as ‘bingo’ by one of his friends. He would later turn ‘beano’ into ‘bingo’, popularizing the game across the States and here in the UK.

Bingo as a Teacher

Rewinding a few years slightly to 19th century Germany, where bingo was actually used as an educational tool for kids. Well, not bingo exactly but an adaptation which was called ‘Tambola’, a game that is also still enjoyed today.

This game taught many children how to multiply numbers using multiplication tables, how to perfect their spelling and sometimes even gave them a keen understanding of history, showing just how multi-purpose bingo games can be.

Swinging Bingo

Now moving to the 1960’s which saw bingo boom amongst the population of the UK as it was at this time that the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 was introduced, which effectively gave us Brits the green light to get our gambling on.

A mere six years after this act was passed by the government, a third of the population of the UK was playing bingo, which meant bingo halls were the place to be most nights of the week. The game became so popular that there was actually dedicated trains that would take city-dwelling players out to the seaside (and vice-versa), as well as bring them home again.

Good Game, M’lady

So why did bingo become associated with the female population? Well, because in the post-war era, a lot of men were opting to head down to the pub rather than hit up a bingo hall so it gave the stay at home wives of the time something to do away from their husbands, plus its social aspect was incredibly desirable to those who spent most of their time looking after the kids.

The rise in female bingo players can also be attributed to some of the lingo that’s used for the numbers as it has rather saucy connotations (‘A sexy Kate’ (no.8) and a ‘dinky doo’ (no.22) to name just a couple), and at the time, even though values were becoming more relaxed, women were expected to be the pinnacle of class, so bingo had a certain taboo element to it.

A New Dawn, a New Day, and I’m Feeling Lucky

The 1990s, or the naughties, as they’ve been dubbed, are seen as a strange decade by many, introducing the world to things like Brit Pop and S-Club 7. While these may drift into obscurity, the 1990s also saw the birth of something we can now no longer live without, the internet - and with it a new way to play bingo.

Online bingo has been around for over 20 years, starting with Cyberbingo in 1996, and has since spawned an entire army of different websites intent on bringing the fun and social elements of the loved game right to everyone’s homes. Of course, in today’s modern era, even playing bingo on a computer is seen as an ageing practice, as now, most sites offer players the chance to play on their phones or tablet devices while they’re on the go (imagine telling someone from the 1960’s that!).

Today’s Wonderful World of Bingo

If someone were to come in fresh to the world of online bingo, they would be spoilt for choice. Currently, there’s plenty of dedicated, trustworthy sites for people to play at, each offering an assortment of great bonuses to attract new players.

While we may be living in a tech-dominated world, the simplicity of bingo has shined through, and you’ll find many throwbacks to how it was used hundreds of years ago. Many schools, for instance, still use bingo as a tool to make learning in the classroom fun.

Bingo is also still used for things like charity events, which pays homage to its roots in Renaissance Italy. Who knew that in 500 years, one game that was designed to help the Italian government give something back to its people would become a universal source of fun for people of all ages everywhere?

As the times move forward, we feel that bingo is just going to keep adapting, finding new ways to be enjoyed as well as bring people together.

So, if bingo sounds like the game for you, or you want to see the diverse range of sites available to play at, we have a huge list of the best bingo sites right here at BestBingoWebsites!

Paul Clare
Last updated on 4th Apr 2023 by Paul Clare

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