The familiar game of Bingo that we know and love has not always been the same, and some early versions of the game would be hardly recognizable to today’s players. In fact, the game of bingo has it’s earliest roots in the Italian state lottery – Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia – which began as far back as 1530!

The Early Game

The game continued to develop and became popular among the upper classes in France in the late 1700’s, when a lotto-type game was created using playing cards. The cards were arranged into three horizontal rows and nine vertical rows. In this format of the game, the horizontal rows contained five numbered squares and four blank squares at random; the vertical rows were also numbered randomly, with numbers from 1-10 on the first row, from 11-20 on the second row, and so on, with no two cards the same. Each player was dealt a single lotto card, and a caller would draw a numbered wooden token from a cloth bag and read it aloud. Players covered the number if it appeared on their card, and the first player to cover a horizontal row was the winner.

It sounds rather familiar, and is not too far away from the game that we enjoy today, but it was much later until the famous shout of ‘Bingo’ became a popular addition to the game.

The ‘Bingo’ Call

One of the joys of playing bingo is when someone fills their card and the age old shout of ‘Bingo’ goes up, but it wasn’t until the early Twentieth Century that this became common practice, and it began in New York. History may have been exaggerated somewhat for story-telling license, but urban myth has it that at a very high stakes game one particular high society lady was getting closer and closer to winning and was struggling to contain her excitement. When the final number was called and she completed her card, she jumped up and not knowing what to say, blurted out the word ‘BINGO!’ at the top of her voice. Whether this is quite true or not is open to debate, but we love the story!

Bingo Comes to the UK

Such is the popularity of the game, that it seems like something of a British institution, but bingo actually only took off in the UK during the 1960’s. The game grew in popularity during the decade and it was given the environment to flourish by the 1968 gaming act, which allowed the game to be played on licensed premises. Over the years it has quickly become part of quintessential British culture, and as a country we have embraced the game. The introduction of the National Bingo Game in 1986 brought it further into the public perception, and a change of image over the last two decades has helped the game appeal to a wider audience. Once considered the reserve of the pensioner, bingo is now commonly played among all age groups, and has become a popular afternoon or evening activity with friends. Bingo callers have also contributed to the rise in popularity of the game, and it may come as a surprise that it’s only in the UK where the use of rhyming vocabulary has developed when calling the numbers. The phrases ‘Legs Eleven’ and ‘Two Fat Ladies’ for example, are truly British additions to the game!

The Growth of Online Bingo

The internet has changed the game of bingo, and there are hundreds of new games available with much bigger prizes. The ‘old church hall’ image of the game has long gone, and it’s now possible to play a variety of different types of game, with huge jackpots and prizes. It also means that bingo is no longer just played on a night out, but can be accessed online at home, at work, and on lunch breaks. Bingo first entered the online gaming market in 2005, and in the years since there has been a sustained growth in the number of bingo websites and the number of players in the UK. It is now one of the most popular games to play online, and our love affair with bingo looks set to continue for a long time to come!