It is often difficult to think back on the first time you heard of something. There are things in life that we feel like they had always been there. Since we do not remember the life before them, it truly does seem like they were always in existence when in reality of course that is not the case.
Taking things for granted like this and only knowing the history of something from the moment you were born is not that beneficial. Learning about the history of the things you find interesting allows you to enjoy them even more. It does not feel like learning even, but exploring your hobby in a new way. By studying the history of something you become a contemporary expert on it as well as ready for what is to come in the future.
Asking the Right Questions
Take gambling for example, one of the biggest industries in the world right now. When somebody mentions gambling and the many games that comprise it, people usually think of casinos and online varieties. But what about the history behind it, the struggle people went through to make it legal and to shape it into an industry, or even the birth of Las Vegas as the world capital of gambling? The same can be said for each and every game, like poker or roulette. Who invented the slot machine, craps, and blackjack, and how did bingo come into existence and take over the world?
Ah yes, bingo, the most innocent of all gambling and the game that is equally loved across all ages. Picking numbers and waiting for them to be called out, and for yourself to yell “bingo!” and win the game including some prizes or money.
Who doesn’t like a good bingo session? Considering it is so globally popular, don’t we ought to know more about its origins? Who invented bingo and how did the business grow and change through time? In this article we tackle this interesting topic and bring you the answers. By the end you will know all the crucial information regarding the history of this simple yet challenging game. If you want to play a few rounds of online bingo in the meantime, check out RedbusBingo.
As many other games (and things), bingo did not exist in its original form from day one, nor did it bear the same name.
The history of bingo tracks back five centuries, to 1530 Italy where a lottery game existed by the name of Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia. This game is still played weekly in Italy, each Saturday. It was introduced to France during the late 1770s, where it took on a much shorter name Le Lotto and where it was played exclusively by the nobles and the wealthy. Germans adopted in in the 1800s, but they mostly used it as a game for students to teach them history, spelling, and math. The ever resourceful Germans, right?
When it comes to the world bingo, it actually originated in the USA where it was first called beano. In the time when country fairs were the biggest thing towns experienced during the year, the game of beano featured a dealer who selected discs with numbers from cigar boxes while the players mark their cards with beans.
When they won, they yelled “beano”. Sounds familiar, right? It is basically what we play today only with markers instead of beans, and with balls instead of discs. But what happened for the game to have the very specific name, a word that cannot be found anywhere else?
The Game We Know Arrives
It is a funny story really, since it happened by pure luck. It was 1929 and the game was scheduled to be played for the very first time. The location? The city of Atlanta, Georgia. The actor(s)? A New York salesman dealing with toys, Edwin S. Lowe, who was present during the game, and a random, nameless winner who yelled “bingo” instead of “beano” as the game was still new and he had no idea what needed to be said.
This mishap was enough for the clever salesmen to hire a math professor, Carl Leffler from Columbia University, to increase the number of combinations in his new bingo game. By 1930, the professor 6,000 different cards existed with way less repeating groups of numbers.
Lowe’s company started producing bingo cards. This was not his only such endeavor, as he actually marketed Yahtzee. Again, he thought of the name basically on the spot, as he bought the rights for it from a couple whom he had seen playing it on their yacht. A salesman is definitely born and not made. In 1973, he sold his company for $26 million, equal to over $170 million today. The creator and marketer of the modern game of Bingo, Edwin S. Lowe, died in 1986.
Between a Church and a Casino
Before he had passed however, he saw the game he marketed go big rather soon after he started revolving his whole life around it. By 1934, some 10,000 games of bingo were played, most of them at churches no less. In Pennsylvania, a Catholic priest approached Lowe about the game and asked him whether it would be possible to use it towards raising church funding. He gave them their blessing and with that move influenced the future of gambling in the USA. Even today, when gambling remains banned in many states, bingo can be organized by churches and non-profit groups as a fundraiser event.
As the decades passed and as the game grew, it became a legitimate industry on its own. It was only a matter of time before the big names in gambling recognized it. It did not take long for the most exclusive Nevada (Las Vegas) and Native American owned casinos to offer it on their grounds.
Lowe actually built his own casino hotel right on the Las Vegas Strip and named it Tallyho Inn, which became Aladdin in 1966 and. It was demolished in 1998. In 2024, almost a century after Lowe first heard the word “bingo” uttered, close to $100 million is spent on a weekly basis just in North America. It is a global powerhouse and a business within the gambling industry. Gambling as a whole owes it a lot.
Recreation for the Elderly
Other than the gambling side of things, the business of bingo found an unlikely home among the elderly who play it as a part of their recreational therapy and socialization. Nursing facilities and retirement homes across North America have regular bingo nights for the grannies and grandpas who adore the game. It is easy to organize and play and it is definitely a favorite for everyone involved.