Bingo has been around for longer than you think. An early form of the game has been traced in Spain and Italy way back to the 16th century. The French also created their own version, which they called “Le lotto.”
In the early 20th century, another version of the game became popular in Germany. It was called “Beano” after the beans that were used as markers for the cards.
The modern bingo variant that we know today was popularized by toy merchandiser Edwin Lowe. After witnessing a game of beano taking place at an Atlanta carnival in 1929, Lowe immediately pitched the idea to his friends in New York. They immediately loved the concept behind the game, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The game should still have been called as “beano” if not for the mispronouncement of one overly enthusiastic player. Instead of shouting out the traditional “beano,” one of Lowe’s friends yelled out “bingo” instead. Lowe thought that the name was catchy, and decided to use it for the game.
Bingo is one of the most popular gambling games in the world. It is estimated that there are nearly 100 million people who like to play bingo worldwide (this figure includes both online and real-life bingo halls). Some A-listers who are known bingo players include Queen Elizabeth and grandson Prince William, and actors Russel Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
There are notable differences between American and British bingo. Though the mechanics are the same, British bingo uses different cards. Instead of the 5×5 cards with a free space at the center, British bingo uses 3×9 “tickets” and 90 balls instead of the usual 75. The game is also sometimes called as “housie.”
Seeing the potential of bingo on a larger scale, Edwin Lowe commissioned Columbia University mathematics professor Carl Leffler to produce 6,000 cards without non-repeating number groups. The more cards Leffler produced, the harder the task became. Lowe pressured Leffler to speed up the process by offering him $100 per card. The professor eventually managed to finish the hard task, but at the cost of his sanity- he became mad.
Though, it can be considered as a form of gambling, religious groups seem to have given bingo their blessing and stamp of approval. Aside from casinos and dedicated bingo halls, churches and charity organizations are usually the ones who regularly host bingo games.
Bingo can be used as an educational tool. In Germany, the game has been a popular teaching aid for students who are learning multiplication tables and spelling. Language schools also use bingo to teach grammar and pronunciation.
Bingo has its own unique jargon. These terms are often funny- for example, “two fat ladies” refer to the number 88 (since they look like two fat ladies standing together), “clickety click” is 66, while “top of the shop” refers to 90.
There are other variants of bingo. Buzzword bingo is a game that mocks the often arcane language used in business events and speeches (players tick off terms such as “core competency,” “corporate values,” “facilitate,” “empowerment” etcetera). Slingo is another interesting variant that mixes bingo with slots.