The history of bingo

Dive into the captivating history of bingo, from its 16th-century Italian roots to today’s online sensation. Discover how bingo became more than just a game!

Reading Time
15 min read
Publish Date
Oct 13, 2023
The history of bingo

Hello, bingo aficionados! Are you ready to journey through the incredible maze that is the history of bingo? Of course you are! Let's unravel how bingo went from a small Italian lottery to an international sensation.

16th century: Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia

In the vibrant tapestry of Italian society during the 16th century, a game was budding that would, centuries later, echo through the halls of community centers and online platforms globally. What we now know as bingo was called Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia. wasn’t merely a pastime; it was a spectacle, a communal event that blurred the lines between amusement and societal endeavor.

The game was officially sanctioned by the Italian government and played on a weekly basis, a tradition that stands even today, marking the early inklings of a modern-day lottery system.

The game was simple yet captivating. Players would purchase tickets, and the winners were decided by drawing lots. Yet, the allure of Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia transcended the thrill of the game itself. It was woven into the fabric of community gatherings, becoming a staple in Italian social life.

Filling the state’s coffers

Not just a crowd pleaser, Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia also played a pivotal role in bolstering the state’s finances. The revenues generated from the game were a boon to the Italian treasury, helping to fill the coffers at the time. The game wasn’t just about merriment; it was also a financial pillar that supported public projects and contributed to the state's economic health.

18th century: From Italy to France

As the sun of the 17th century set, the game of chance that had swept through Italy embarked on a grand tour, finding itself in the sophisticated parlors of 18th century France. The game donned a new moniker, "Le Lotto", and with a dash of French finesse, it was about to become the crème de la crème of salon entertainments.

Le Lotto: A French twist on a cherished game

In the lavishly adorned salons of France, where the air buzzed with intellectual discourse and the latest court gossip, a newly arrived game was making waves among the upper crust. "Le Lotto" brought with it the delightful suspense of chance, married to the elegance of French sensibilities.

1920s: America’s first taste of bingo

The Roaring Twenties, a time renowned for its jazz, flappers, and a loosening of social norms, also heralded the arrival of a game that would soon become a cornerstone of American social entertainment. The game landed on American shores with a quirky moniker—"Beano." It was a time of exuberance and innovation, and Beano fit right into the burgeoning culture of leisure and amusement.

Beano: A Game of beans and dreams

Unlike the elegant salons of France or the community squares of Italy, Beano found its home amid the lively atmospheres of fairs and carnivals. It was the land where cotton candy met fortune, and the American populace was ready for a taste.

The mechanics of Beano were simple and enticing. Instead of the sophisticated wooden tokens of Le Lotto, players used beans to mark their cards as numbers were called out. The rustic charm of beans juxtaposed against the glitzy backdrop of the Roaring Twenties captured the imagination of many, from flappers to jazz musicians.

The fairground phenomenon

The fairgrounds and carnivals were the beating heart of leisure activities during the 1920s. Amid the whirl of laughter, music, and the clatter of amusement rides, Beano tents popped up, welcoming anyone with a penchant for luck and a love for communal fun. The rhythmic call of numbers, the rustle of beans on cards, and the exhilarating shout of "Beano!" when a line was completed became part of the carnival soundtrack.

It was more than just a game; it was a shared experience, an invitation to step into a circle of chance and camaraderie, with a playful nod to the game’s European roots.

1930s: Bingo renaissance

bingo letters

As the curtains of the 1920s drew to a close, little did the world know that the 1930s would usher in a renaissance for the humble game of Beano. The stage was set, the players were eager, and along came Edwin S. Lowe, a New York toy salesman with a knack for spotting the gleam of potential amid the carnival tents.

Edwin S. Lowe: The catalyst of transformation

In the swirl of fate and chance, Edwin S. Lowe stumbled upon a Beano game at a Georgia carnival. The fervor and excitement among the players were palpable, but it was a serendipitous error—a player's exclamation of "Bingo" instead of "Beano"—that planted the seed of transformation in Lowe’s mind.

Without missing a beat, Lowe saw the sparkle of opportunity. He whisked the game away to the bustling streets of New York, sprinkled a little entrepreneurial magic, and embarked on refining and rebranding the game. Alongside, Lowe collaborated with a math professor, Carl Leffler, to increase the number of unique Bingo cards to 6,000, reducing the chances of multiple winners and enhancing the game's appeal.

A name to remember: Bingo!

The name 'Bingo' wasn’t just a happy accident; it was a catchy, memorable moniker that resonated with the excitement and anticipation the game evoked. The accidental cry of “Bingo” at that fateful game in Georgia wasn’t merely an error; it was a nomenclature novelty waiting to happen.

Standardizing the game: The birth of modern bingo

Lowe wasn’t content with just a new name; he envisioned a game that was organized, standardized, and accessible. He meticulously crafted a set of standardized rules, making the game easy to understand and play. But the pièce de résistance was the creation of Bingo kits—complete with cards, number discs, and a rubber numbering stamp that revolutionized the game setup.

The Bingo kits weren’t just a product; they were a passport to a world of excitement, camaraderie, and the sweet taste of victory. They flew off the shelves faster than a hot jazz tune, marking the rise of Bingo from a carnival sideshow to a household name.

Top Tip: Want to honor the legacy of Edwin S. Lowe at your next Bingo gathering? Why not create a 1930s themed Bingo night, complete with jazz tunes and a classic Bingo setup? With the myriad of customization options available on a bingo card generator, you could design your cards to reflect the charm and elegance of the era when Bingo was reborn!

1960s: Explosion of popularity in the UK

The 1960s, a decade synonymous with radical social changes, bold fashion statements, and rock 'n' roll, had another ace up its sleeve—Bingo!

This wasn’t the UK’s first rendezvous with the game. Known by the whimsical name of "Housey Housey" prior to World War II, this beloved game had already found its place in British culture.

However, it was the sixties that saw the shores of the United Kingdom dance to the tune of Bingo fever, thanks to a legislative green light and a populace ready to embrace the joy of the game anew.

The legislative liberator: Betting and Gaming Act of 1960

The turning point came with the enactment of the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960, a piece of legislation that changed the gaming landscape in the UK. This act was the metaphorical flipping of the 'Open' sign on the doors of leisure and entertainment. It wasn't just a legal shift; it was a social invitation to explore the world of chance, and Bingo was at the forefront of this exploration.

The rise of bingo halls

Like daffodils in spring, bingo halls sprung up across the length and breadth of the UK. These weren’t just venues for a game; they were the modern-day coliseums where camaraderie, competition, and celebration danced hand in hand. The sound of numbers being called, the rustle of eager anticipation, and the triumphant cries of winners became the new soundtrack of British leisure time.

A British twist: 90-ball format and Bingo Lingo

The Brits, with their knack for uniqueness, didn't just adopt bingo; they adorned it with a distinctly British caper. The 90-ball format introduced a longer play, more numbers, and thus more anticipation. It wasn't just about marking off numbers; it was a narrative of hope and excitement, unfolding with every call.

But what truly set the British version apart was the whimsical 'Bingo Lingo.' This catchy, playful language for calling numbers added a dash of humor and cultural essence that made the game not just engaging, but endearing. "Two little ducks, 22" or "Knock at the door, number 4," the calls were as much a part of the experience as the game itself.

The game also found its way to other shores like Australia, where it's affectionately known as "Housie," further underlining Bingo's global allure.

1990s-2000s: Rise of online bingo

As the calendar pages flipped into the '90s, the world was on the cusp of a digital dawn. Amidst the pixelated landscape, a traditional game was about to get a modern makeover. Bingo, with its rich lineage tracing back to the cobbled streets of 16th-century Italy, was ready to leap into the virtual realm. And oh, what a leap it was!

The digital doorway: Online bingo emerges

The rise of the internet was more than just a technological marvel; it was a gateway to endless possibilities. Among the myriad of traditional experiences finding a new home online, Bingo too found its digital footing. The essence of the game remained intact, but the experience was about to get a cybernetic uplift.

Online bingo was not confined by physical walls or bound by time. It was a realm where the bingo buzz was always alive, accessible with just a click. The digital age turned the game into a round-the-clock celebration, opening up the bingo halls to the world.

A global party at your fingertips

With the introduction of online platforms, bingo shed its geographical shackles. It was no longer a game you played only in a hall with your neighbors; it was a global party you could join from the comfort of your home. And the dress code? Your cozy PJs!

The virtual landscape brought together bingo enthusiasts from every corner of the globe, weaving a digital community bound by the love of the game. Whether you were in London, Sydney, or New York, the bingo magic was just a click away.

24/7 Fiesta: Bingo anytime, anywhere

The rigidity of schedules crumbled in the face of online bingo. The sun never set in the virtual bingo world, and the shouts of "Bingo!" echoed across time zones. It was a 24/7 fiesta where the bingo balls were always rolling, ready to sprinkle some joy at any hour.

Top Tip: Can't wait to dive into the endless fun of online bingo? Why not start your own digital bingo soiree? With a bingo card generator, create custom cards and invite friends for a virtual bingo bash. The future of bingo is here, and it's fabulous!

Bingo Today: More than just numbers

The contemporary world of bingo is a kaleidoscope of creativity, extending far beyond the traditional bingo halls and online rooms. This classic game has shapeshifted into various inventive avatars, catering to a myriad of interests and purposes. Let's traverse through the modern landscape where bingo is not just about numbers, but a tool for education, exploration, and so much more.

A learning tool: Educational Bingo

Bingo has donned the robe of an educator, making learning an engaging and enjoyable endeavor with Educational Bingo. Whether it’s practicing math facts, reinforcing language skills, or exploring the wonders of science, educational bingo is a teacher’s ally and a student’s friend. It transforms mundane memorization into an interactive learning experience, where every call and every bingo card unveils a nugget of knowledge.

Scavenger Hunt Bingo: A quest for fun

Who says bingo must be confined to a hall or a screen? Scavenger Hunt Bingo takes the game outdoors, merging the thrill of a treasure hunt with the joy of bingo. Whether it's a nature-themed scavenger bingo at a park or a city-based quest exploring landmarks, this version of bingo is about adventure, observation, and the delightful unpredictability of discovery.

Customized themes: A canvas of personal expression

With modern bingo card generators, you can now design bingo cards that resonate with your passions and interests. Fancy a game of movie-themed bingo or a pet lovers' bingo night? The customization possibilities are endless, allowing you to craft a game that’s uniquely yours.

Emoji and image bingo: A pictorial spin

In the digital age, why limit ourselves to numbers? Emoji and Image Bingo bring a visual twist to the game, where images, icons, or emojis replace the traditional numbers. It's a fun, contemporary take on bingo that adds a layer of visual excitement, appealing to the Instagram generation and beyond.

Inventive use cases: Bridging realms

Bingo has also found its way into novel domains. From team-building bingo that fosters camaraderie among colleagues, to ice-breaker bingo at social gatherings that sparks conversations among strangers, the game has become a medium for connection and engagement.


Delve into the intriguing world of Bingo with these frequently asked questions that unravel the history, evolution, and fun facts about this timeless game.

Parting thoughts

So there you have it, the lowdown on how bingo became the game we all know and love. The next time you play, take a moment to appreciate the rich history behind those five simple letters. After all, you're part of a legacy that stretches back over five centuries!

The Bingo Card Creator Team

The Bingo Card Creator Team

We're the Bingo Card Creator Team, bringing you diverse, engaging bingo templates and content.

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