History Of Bingo

Thu, 29 May 2008 17:32

History of Bingo

A look on the past and history of bingo.


The game of bingo is undoubtedly one of the most popular games being played in the casino. More and more people pack bingo halls hoping to win the cash prize at stake.  For most bingo players, learning the history of the game is almost as important as understanding the rules and regulations that govern the game. And for others, finding out about the background of bingo can be very informative and interesting.

Modern day bingo games trace their roots from a form of national lottery named Lo Giuco del Lotto d'Italia which surfaced in Italy in 1530.  To this day, this game is still being played in Italy during the weekend.  By the year 1778, the game reached France and was known as "Le Lotto." It was popular among the wealthy and educated Frenchmen. Subsequently, it reached the shores of Germany in the 1800's; although it was mainly a game for children, designed to help them understand  spelling, history and math.

The man responsible for creating bingo as we know it today is Edwin S. Lowe, a toy salesman.  It all began at a carnival.  The year was 1929.  Lowe was on his way to meet a client when he, having time to spare, decided to look around in the carnival.  He saw a game known as "Beano" and he was fascinated by how exciting the game was and how the crowd clearly loved playing the game.  The place was jampacked with players and Lowe was unable to take part so he just watched the game unfold. Players waited for the announcement of the next number and once the number is on their card, players covered that number with a bean. When the desired pattern is formed in one of the cards, the player using that winning card would yell "beano" and would then be declared the winner.  

Ever the salesman, Lowe saw the viability of the game. So as soon as he came back to New York, he devised his own game of beano using cardboard, beans, and rubber stamps. He basically recreated what he saw at the carnival and then added a few changes.  With the cooperation of his friends, whom he invited to test the game, Lowe discovered that the game is really exciting and has the potential to be a hit.  He christened the game "bingo" after hearing someone shout "bingo" rather than "beano."   

The concept of utilizing bingo as a fund-raising tool was first explored by a Catholic priest, with assistance from Lowe.  The priest, at the suggestion of a parish member, started bingo games to help raise funds for the church.  However, with only small number of cards with unique combinations, there were often more than five winners each game.  So the priest asked for Lowe's help to develop more cards.  Lowe agreed and  employed the services of Carl Leffler, a math professor at Columbia University, to aid him in creating more cards with one-of-a-kind number combinations. The professor charged a certain amount for every card he created. By the year 1930, he had already generated 6,000 possible combinations. It is believed that Leffler was later struck by insanity.  

The earliest form of bingo introduced by Lowe had two versions. One kind of bingo game consisted of 12 cards while the other variety had 24.  Lowe, however, could not claim ownership of the game itself because it had come from the public domain.  He can only claim ownership of the word "bingo."  As soon as the game become a hit all over the country, several copycat games also emerged.  Lowe did not go after his rivals for copyright infringement, instead, he just asked for a royalty fee of $1 a year for the use of the word "bingo."