Bingo History 101
The game of bingo is approximately 500 years old. Scholars say that the first bingo games were developed in Italy around 1530. Bingo started out as a lottery style game known as "Il Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia." The game is still played today in Saturdays in Italy. Italians also played a bingo style game at Christmastime called Tombola which bears a close resemblance to 90 ball bingo.
In the 17th century the game became popular in France among the upper classes and royalty. The game was known as "Le Lotto" and was first played in 1778. The French modified the game which featured a card with 27 squares in an original layout of three rows and nine columns. The numbers on the cards ranged from 1 to 90. The French cards led to the design of today's bingo cards. The French also added callers to the game. The caller would pick wooden numbered chips from a bag and call out the numbers. Lottery style bingo games became popular in most European countries.
In the United States many credit Edwin Lowe with creating the first modern games. In reality it was Hugh J Ward that standardized the modern version of bingo. Ward operated games in Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh in the early 1920's. Ward went on to publish the first bingo rule book in 1933. While Ward standardized the game it was toy salesman Edwin Lowe who popularized the game in the United States.
Lowe was traveling in Georgia when he happened on a country carnival. Lowe parked his car and found most of the carnival booths closed. Lowe noticed one tent was full of people playing a game called 'beano.' Players used beans to cover the squares on their cards. The game used Ward's rules, dried beans, a rubber stamp and cardboard cards. Ward showed the game to some friends and they loved it. In the 30's Lowe operated games in New York using the same equipment he had seen in Georgia. At some point the game's name was changed to bingo.
Ward developed and marketed a home version of the game and by the 1940's the game had spread throughout the United States and Canada. Today 48 states and several Native American tribes offer legal bingo games. At commercial and tribal bingo halls high stakes games are popular. In 1996 online bingo made its first appearance and today online bingo generated over one billion dollars a year. The industry is growing and the game has attracted millions of young players guaranteeing the game's survival well into the future.
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