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A Brief History of Bingo

May 22nd, 2013 Games

Many people get a big kick out of Bingo - a game characterized by numerical squares, crackling ball dispensers and the concluding, triumphant cry of "Bingo!!!" 

HowStuffWorks.com states that legal bingo is present in almost every state in the U.S., plus more than 100 Native American reservations. But how did Bingo get started? Who invented it, and did they expect it to become the venerable sensation it has become? Behold - the origins of Bingo.

Lo Gioco del Lotto d'Italia According to multiple sources, the game of Bingo can be traced back to the creation of other lottery games, the earliest of which emerged in Italy in 1530 under the name Lo Gioco del Lotta d'Italia. An excerpt from the Gambling Times Guide to Bingo, reprinted by Strangelife.com, notes that a game of the same name is still played weekly in the boot-shaped nation. Germans started making educational lotto games for small children in the 1800s, but it was the French who established the template for modern bingo in the late 1700s. The French adopted the Italian lotto activity into a game that incorporated cards with rows of numbered squares. Players would draw a card as another player running the game would call out random numbers that corresponded to different squares.

How Beano turned into Bingo Although Edwin S. Lowe is sometimes credited with the invention of modern American Bingo, technically, the destitute toy designer lifted the idea from a salesman in Atlanta, Georgia. As legend has it, Lowe attended a fair where people were thoroughly enjoying a game called Beano, which involved placing beans on a card to cover numbers as they were randomly called out. A full line of beans on a card entitled a player to shout "Beano!" and declare themselves the winner. Lowe fashioned a set of Beano cards he and guests could play at his home in New York City. During one game, a woman accidentally blurted out "Bingo," and a lightbulb went off in Lowe's head.

"I cannot describe the strange sense of elation which that girl's cry brought to me," Lowe recalled, according to the Guide to Bingo. "All I could think of was that I was going to come out with this game, and it was going to be called Bingo!"

Bingo, as we know, became wildly successful. Although it was more-or-less impossible to trademark, Lowe become wealthy regardless. Later, he would find even more success in the game-inventing business by co-creating Yahtzee. He died in 1985 at the age of 75.

Bingo enters the fundraising game A bit after bingo's popularity exploded, a priest approached Lowe about the prospect of hosting a large Bingo game to help pull his church out of financial trouble. However, a surprising problem was discovered - six or more people could win every game, states the Guide to Bingo. To solve this problem, Lowe tapped a Columbia University mathematician to come up with 6,000 Bingo cards without any repeating sequences of numbers.

Today in Bingo 123 Bingo Online explains that, because so many churches host Bingo games, it has yet to be considered risky or associated with illegal gambling like other games of chance. The source also says that Bingo players are usually older than 45, but many young people also think it's a splendid way to socialize and potentially win prizes. Even for small children, it's an easy game to set up around the home - perhaps during a birthday party or other similar gathering.