Bingo shares all the suspense and excitement of games like blackjack, roulette and other games of chance but its history couldn’t be more different than that of its casino counterparts. Once thought of as a game for senior citizens in church basements, bingo is now played by millions all over the world. It’s a game that is making a comeback because of the online casino industry and the many bingo halls that now feature a variety of games. Online bingo allows players from all over the world to take part in the same game and hundreds of internet based casinos are now offering bingo because of the demand of this dramatic game.
Orgins of Bingo
Bingo’s origins date back to the mid-1500's. The game began as a type of lottery in Italy. In 1530 Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia (the Italian National Lottery) was formed. It was incredibly popular and a regular fixture of Italian life that continues to this day. The lottery is now responsible for adding about 75 million dollars to the government’s budget every year.
Because of its popularity the lottery spread to France in the 1770's where it became known as Le Lotto and established itself as a game played by the French upper class. From there the game spread to Germany where it was given an educational spin. The Germans used the game to assist students with their knowledge of spelling, history, and math.
The lottery-style game can finally be traced to North America in 1929. At this point in the game’s history it was known as “Beano.” The first recorded game was at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia. A crowd of players gathered around the stand each holding a card that listed many different numbers. Wooden disks were removed from a box by the game’s caller who would then shout out the number on the disk. The crowd would then check their cards for the number and if they had it, they would place a bean over the number. The first player to completely cover their card with beans would then yell out “Beano” and became the winner.
The carnival game of beano was attended by a traveling toy salesman from New York named Edwin Lowe. He was amazed by how popular the game was and how many people crowded around the stand. At the end of the night Lowe spoke to the organizer of the Beano stand and talked to him about a similar game he had seen while traveling through Germany. That game was Lotto and was also being played at carnivals in Europe. Lowe decided then to bring this game to the carnival circuit in the United States.
But first Lowe wanted to try the game out for himself. He bought some beans, a rubber stamp, and some cards, and along with some rule changes he created a version of the game to be played at home. He invited a number of friends over to try it out and they all loved it. One player was so excited she renamed the game without even meaning to do so. She had completed her card and became so frazzled with an excited happiness that she yelled out “BINGO” instead of “BEANO.” Needless to say, the name stuck and a new game was born.
Lowe marketed and developed the game very successfully throughout the United State. The style of the game led to different versions but always with the original goal of filling up a card or at least a line or two depending on the particular game. Bingo became the umbrella term for all the different versions of the game.
A priest from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania is responsible for the next evolution of bingo. He approached Lowe with the idea that bingo could be used as a way to raise money for his church. Lowe also realized that to grow the game he would need to create a massive number of cards all of which had to have different combinations. He enlisted the aid of an old mathematician and eventually was able to make 6,000 different cards. This endeavor reportedly cost Lowe thousands of dollars and cost the elderly mathematician his sanity!
News that bingo was a successful way to fundraise spread quickly and helped grow the popularity of the game. In 1934 roughly 10,000 games of bingo were being played every week and Lowe had to create a small empire to meet the demand. His firm worked at an incredible pace to create the cards necessary for all these games which meant he now had thousands of employees in nine floors of office space using 64 different printing presses that ran around the clock.
Unlike some other games of chance and gambling, the image of bingo has always been a clean and wholesome one. Throughout its history it has been played mainly by charitable organizations and churches in the United States. The stakes and legality of the game are different depending on the laws of each state. Bingo is also generally played weekly for fairly small stakes though some bingo halls will have a larger jackpot for the last game of the season.
In addition to the charity games there is also now a commercial bingo industry where games are held in bingo halls, Nevada casinos and Native American establishments. Some operators will link up by telephone with other clubs so that the stakes are much higher as the different halls all play the same numbers. However, when the stakes are higher the chances of winning are higher as well.
Bingo is also carving out a place for itself online. When the online casino industry took off more than a decade ago, bingo was one of the games that could now be played by people all over the world who had not had a chance to ever play the game before this. The main difference between the game when played online and when played in a bingo hall is how the numbers are drawn. Balls are not used in the online game and are replaced by a random number generator instead.
However, one advantage of the online game is that it’s actually more social in some ways than a bingo hall. This is because while talking is frowned upon in a bingo hall, online there is a chat room where players from all over the world can interact with each other. In some ways bingo is perhaps more powerful than ever because the game is featured in many of the 2,000 different online casinos, allowing games to be enjoyed by a global group of players at any time of the day.