Where Does Bingo Come From?
Bingo is a popular and long-standing casino game that has been enjoyed by many for centuries. In the United Kingdom alone, bingo generated over £1 billion in revenue between April 2018 and March 2019, with a significant portion of this coming from main stage games.
The presence of designated bingo halls has contributed to the enduring popularity of the game. These halls cater to those who prefer to play offline, but there are also numerous online bingo games available, making it accessible to a wider audience.
However, bingo’s roots stretch far beyond the halls and digital platforms we know today. If you’re interested in learning more about its origins, this post will take you on a journey through the history of bingo, from its beginnings in 16th-century Italy to its widespread popularity in the present day.
From Italy to France: 1530 to 1770
The exact origins of bingo are difficult to trace, but it is believed to have evolved from an Italian lottery called ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia.’ This game was introduced around 1530 and involved players marking numbers on a card in accordance with the winning numbers drawn from a sack. Remarkably, ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia’ is still played in Italy every Saturday.
By the 1770s, ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia’ had gained popularity beyond Italy and made its way to France, where it became known as ‘Le Lotto.’ In France, the game underwent changes that brought it closer to the modern version of bingo we know and enjoy today. The card layout was reconfigured, with numbers arranged in rows, similar to the structure of a 90 Ball bingo card.
The Game Arrives in Britain: 1800s
In the early 1800s, bingo finally arrived in Britain, almost three centuries after its inception in Italy. It quickly gained traction, especially in East London. Interestingly, many of the quirky phrases commonly used by bingo callers, known as ‘bingo lingo,’ originated from Cockney rhyming slang. For example, ‘One Little Flea’ corresponds to the number 3, ‘Duck and dive’ to the number 25, and ‘Getting Plenty’ to the number 20.
Additionally, there is a strong military connection to some ‘bingo lingo’ phrases. This is because British soldiers also enjoyed playing the game, which they referred to as ‘Housey-Housey’.
‘Beano’ in the United States: 1929
In the United States, the game we now know as ‘bingo’ was introduced as ‘beano’ in 1929. This name originated from players using beans to mark the numbers on their cards. The game reportedly first appeared at a carnival in Atlanta, Georgia, and was noticed by toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe, who was inspired to popularize it.
In ‘beano,’ players had to shout ‘beano!’ when they completed a row. It is said that Edwin Lowe overheard a player shouting ‘bingo’ by mistake and found the word catchy, leading him to coin the term for his commercially produced boxed bingo games.
While this story may be the stuff of legends, there are indications that the term ‘bingo’ was already in use in the UK during the late 1920s. Regardless of its etymology, one thing is certain: bingo is a beloved casino game enjoyed by people worldwide.