History and Evolution of Bingo

Bingo is a globally popular pastime, bringing joy to millions of players and even letting lucky winners take home top prizes.

While most bingo is played online, its origins stretch back to bricks and mortar bingo halls, and are rooted in even more ancient games of chance which helped to inspire the style of play we know and love today.

Let’s take a trip back to the past, to unpick the intriguing history of bingo, and explore how it has changed and evolved over the centuries.

Looking back to the original lotteries

As a game, bingo is closely related to the concept of the lottery, which was conceived in the sunny climes of Italy way back in the 16th century.

It’s possible to look even further back than this, with the game of keno arising in China over 2000 years ago, while similar games also evolved independently in Ancient Rome, partly as a fundraising scheme to pay for repairs to that famed city. 

So today, when you learn how to play bingo online as a beginner, you can claim that you’re participating in an activity that dates back to the dawn of human civilization.

Moving into the modern era

While Asia and Europe were the birthplace of the games that inspired Bingo, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the rules were formalized, and America was the country where this occurred.

Carnivals around Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania began to host a bingo-like game designed by Hugh J. Ward, and this spread far and wide, eventually reaching Atlanta in the late 1920s. It was here that toymaker Edwin Lowe encountered it, and he decided to adapt it from its original ‘Beano’ name, to a commercially available ‘Bingo’.

Soon people up and down the country were enjoying the now-iconic bingo experience, using scorecards and randomly chosen numbers to see who could get a matching combination before their competitors.

In time, bingo would again be adopted for fundraising drives, as well as for straightforward gambling, especially in the state of Nevada where wagering on games of chance has long been legal.

Bingo around the world

The popularity of bingo in the US is undeniable, but it is also widely played elsewhere, especially in the UK and Australia.

British bingo fans benefitted from Edwin Lowe’s commercial release of the game he formalized as bingo, not only as a casual family-friendly experience, but also when played for cash jackpots. This was made possible thanks to a law passed in 1960 which made gambling legal, and resulted in a host of land-based bingo venues being opened nationwide.

At its peak, there were over 600 bingo halls in the UK alone, and while this number has dwindled due to the rise of online gambling and broader societal changes, it is still a significant part of the nation’s cultural makeup.

There is one major distinction between the bingo played in America and in the UK, that being the number of balls that are in play at any one time. While US players have 75 ball bingo, Brits use a 90 ball variant. This alters the odds of winning somewhat, and there are also a whole range of bingo calls and conventions that make playing across the pond quite unique.

The future of bingo

Bingo has been given a new lease of life thanks to the availability of web-based versions of this timeless game. And with safe online gaming more easily achievable on the go from smartphones and tablets, this trend looks set to continue.

It’s likely that even more people will get into bingo going forward, since the legalization of online betting is gaining pace in the US, and this is key to catalyzing any emerging market.