We’re celebrating National Bingo Day – so we thought we’d treat you with a lesson on the fascinating history of bingo!
Keep reading to get the scoop…
What are the origins of bingo?
What was once a simple board game 6 centuries ago has developed into a multi-million pound industry that brings people together across the world.
Bingo’s been around for a while…over 500 years, to be specific! It descended from the Italian national lottery in 1530, where it was known as Lo Gioco del Lotto. It resurfaced in France in the late 1700s, where it was called Le Lotto.
Bingo might have been established in parts of Europe, but until the 20th century, it wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now. Or it wasn’t, at least, until Edwin S. Lowe popped up in 1929. The toy salesman from New York came across the game in Jacksonville, Georgia, and was told by the pitchman that he had seen it being played at fairs in Germany.
Funnily enough, the game had yet to be named bingo at this point – it was known as ‘Beano’! This was because players would use a bean to cover up their number on the card, and once they’d won, they’d shout ‘BEANO’!
Lowe decided to invite his friends’ round, adjusting the game into a boxed version to test its popularity. During one round, a friend of his became so excited that instead of shouting ‘Beano’ she yelled out ‘BINGO’ – and so the game of Bingo was born!
When did bingo arrive in the UK?
In the UK, meanwhile, bingo wasn’t commonly played until the 1960s, when it not only made its debut, but just about exploded across the nation. Until this point, cinemas and theatres were a central source of public entertainment – until owning a television at home started to become common.
This meant that a huge number of cinemas and theatres were left empty all over the nation, giving way for the unused buildings to be revamped into bingo halls. The 1960’s Betting and Gaming Act topped off bingo’s surge in popularity: the simple game had now become a legal form of gambling, leading to the creation of hundreds more bingo parlours that swiftly became a part of British culture.
Bingo was soon considered a go-to entertainment activity across various venues, including working men’s clubs, holiday camps and church halls. In 1963, the UK had a population of 53.5 million – and 14 million of them had bingo club membership.
Bingo continued to tick along as a staple in British culture for the rest of the 20th century, with online bingo making its first appearance in the 1990s.
The 2007 smoking ban hit the bingo industry hard, and it continued to struggle until 2014, when an adjustment in tax law provided some much-needed relief. Prior to this, bingo had a tax rate of 20%, compared to 15% for bookmakers and 12% for lottery tickets. The change in law whittled down bingo tax rates to a much more manageable 10%, allowing more bingo halls to open their doors.
Meanwhile, online bingo parlours steadily gained traction until they became financial giants. In the 2018-2019 UK tax year, online bingo venues generated more than £1 billion of revenue. Not only did the option to play online further boost bingo’s popularity, but it also brought it closers to younger generations – particularly younger women.
With 100 million bingo players across the world today and 3.5 million online bingo players present in the UK itself, one thing is clear: bingo’s been around for a long time, but it’s not going anywhere! It continues to be a sociable source of entertainment across the nation and the world.