It may surprise you to learn that the very British pastime of bingo actually originated from Italy in the 1500’s. Though there is not much documented on the game of bingo around that time, it is thought that the game was called “Lotto” and this game then gave birth to the “Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia” that still plays every Saturday night to this very day! Naturally it was a lot cruder than the fancy “Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia” of today back in the 1500’s and was initially thought to have been played with rocks and stones. The game is not thought to have changed an awful lot since – in fact, it included numbers being called and marked off in exactly the same way as we do now!
Though the Lotto game as it was being played in the rest of Europe had not yet hit the UK, a lottery-type game had already been invented in Britain in the 1600’s. Meanwhile, in the rest of Europe, “Lotto” as it was still known in the 1700’s had become massively popular in Italy and slowly but surely began to spread throughout Europe, starting in France where it was dubbed simply “Le Lotto”. The earliest documented occasion of the Lotto game hitting the UK and being played as the rest of Europe were playing it is in 1716, when it was organised and played by women only. Unlike in Italy where Lotto was played amongst the lower working class for fun, Le Lotto was played only amongst the rich and elite of France and was played amongst the wealthy in the UK, too, however it soon spawned fans of all classes and the lottery game was dubbed “shove groat” (in the UK) amongst the lower classes who were playing it in ale houses. The game also spread to Germany, however the German’s actually turned it into a game for children to teach them mathematics!
There is very little to report on the game of bingo between these years. The game kept spreading throughout Europe and it really did not change at all. It actually took hundreds of years to hit the US, where the name was changed to “Beano” thanks to the fact that players, you may have guessed, covered the numbers with little dried beans as opposed to stones. The first documented playing of the game we know today was at a Carnival in Georgia. During one such game, a businessman from New York by the name of Edwin Lowe heard a player call out “BINGO” instead of “Beano” and thus the game of bingo we all love today was born! Lowe then joined forces with Carl Leffler, who was a math professor, and the pair then created more combinations of cards and distributed them under the name of Bingo.
A Pennsylvanian priest requested from Lowe and Leffler that he use their game to play within church with a view to increase their funds. This is where the game really took off and by the 1940’s the game of bingo was played every single week within the church alone, and the name of “Bingo” spread to the UK, where it was already a massively popular pastime, this time amongst working class ladies.
Bingo was absolutely massive in the UK, and it was in the 1960’s that Eric Morely – the man behind the massive Mecca Bingo that we all know today! – launched his first bingo hall and even today this man is famously credited with introducing the game of bingo commercially to the UK and went on to introduce a colossal 15,000 other bingo halls in the UK alone!
Several thousand bingo halls popped up all over the world with the game being a particular hit within the UK. The very first online bingo site hit our computer screens in 1996, when Bingo Zone was launched. This was completely free bingo with no prizes, however in 1998 Bingo Blitz – which is now the most popular Facebook bingo game in the world – launched with prizes and followed the same format that we all love today!
The launch of online bingo in 1996 paved the way for absolutely thousands of excellent bingo sites and players are literally spoiled for choice today! What used to be small cash prizes for bingo have morphed into incredible, life-changing experiences (with the first bingo millionaire crowned in 1998) and players are now gifted with fancy gadgets, cars and holidays beyond their wildest dreams. The game of online bingo has made the game accessible to millions throughout the world and is currently a multi-billion pound industry – and growing!
Once upon a time, bingo halls were the main source of entertainment for the women of the UK. Even before the Betting and Gaming Act was launched in 1960, ladies would flock to play bingo when the men were at war. Nowadays, it has been said many a time that the world of offline bingo is in decline, but why? The introduction of the Smoking Ban on Bingo halls in July 2007 could be a big factor in this. Community centres and halls in which bingo was the headlining game reported a massive decline in footfall, however we believe that this decline cannot purely be attributed to the smoking ban alone. Statistics show that as far back as 1997 – 10 years before the smoking ban – bingo halls were slumping, and to this day there are over 200 halls LESS than there was then. The fact that the smoking ban was not introduced for another 10 years shows that the decline was on the horizon far before bingo players decided that the ability to smoke a cigarette was more important than hitting bingo halls. Of course the smoking ban had a big effect on all establishments, but we do not think that it is fair to say that it is the sole cause of the decline. A mixture of the ability to play online for bigger jackpots as well as the fact that patrons can no longer smoke are both at fault.