The excitement of playing coupled with cash prizes makes bingo a popular game. Not just here in the UK, but all over the world.
Bingo has been daubing its way into our hearts since the 16th century. Unlike most games which fade into history, bingo has continued to gain momentum, whether you play in your local bingo hall, on holiday or online.
The history of bingo dates back to Italy around 1530. It was called "Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia" which originates from the Italian lottery. From Italy it the moved over to France where it was known as “Le Lotto” and became a firm favourite among the French aristocracy.
It arrived in Britain and the rest of Europe in the 18th century, even being used as an educational tool to teach children spelling, times tables and history in Germany.
There's no firm evidence of where the name “Bingo” originated from, however, the story goes that it came from an American toy manufacturer named Edwin S Lowe.
He played the game at a carnival where it was called “beano”. When he took the game home to his friends, one was so excited about winning she called out “bingo” instead of “beano”.
Lowe then packaged the game up and sold it as bingo. The success he gained from selling bingo then allowed him to go on and invent the iconic game Yahtzee.
The premise of the game remains the same whatever country you’re playing in. Although, there are different variations across the world which we will cover in this guide.
The basic rule of the game is that a player is given a card which has a selection of numbers printed on it. The game begins with the caller reading out random numbers and the player must mark off the numbers that appear on the card.
Depending on the exact game you’re playing; whether it be a line, multiple lines or a full house, once all those numbers are marked off the player can call “bingo” and they win a prize.
Bingo always feels like a very British game with bingo halls still present on many high streets. Although there are many different variations played, traditionally it's 90 ball bingo that is played in the UK.
A typical ticket has 27 spaces, arranged in 9 columns over three rows. They are purchased in strips of six so that the numbers one to 90 appear across all six tickets.
The bingo caller always starts each game with “eyes down” and then begins to call out numbers as they are randomly selected. Due to its popularity, the game has also developed its own bingo language with many bingo callers using catch phrases to describe the numbers. For example “two little ducks 22”.
The 90 ball bingo played in the UK has three winning combinations: one line, two lines and a full house.
As we've already mentioned, bingo was said to have originated in Italy where it still remains one of the most popular games played among Italians. However, it wasn’t actually legalised in Italy until 2002 when the first licensed hall opened in the northern town of Treviso.
Although the Italians weren’t able to play for money until 2002, the game has remained popular due to it being played for symbolic prizes.
In Germany, they play a very similar game to the UK. But, it’s used more as a teaching method than a form of gambling. It’s called Lottospiel with players shouting out the phrase “volltreffer” - which translates to “Bull’s Eye” when they win.
Surprisingly, bingo is extremely widespread in Romania. It saw a rise in popularity in the 1990’s after the countries recovery from the Ceaucescu domination.
Both on and offline versions of the game are popular in Romania. But due to the uncertainties around the legalities of gambling since Romania joined the EU, there are very few licensed bingo halls.
Japan is the second largest market when it comes to online bingo – sandwiched between the US at number one and the UK at number three. The most popular version of bingo in Japan is 75 ball bingo, although they also play 90 ball.
It’s thought that the Japanese fell in love with the game of bingo during the Great Recession when people saw it as a cheap but exciting form of entertainment.
It’s no surprise that bingo is popular in America. After all, not only is it home to one of the world’s biggest gambling destinations, Las Vegas, but it’s also thought to be the birthplace of the game as we know it.
Typically the American’s play 75 ball bingo. The cards have 25 squares arranged in five vertical columns and five side to side rows. The game uses numbers one to 75 and the five columns are labelled B-I-N-G-O with a centre space usually marked as a free space.
Players can win by completing a row, column or diagonal line.
The popularity of bingo in Sweden is mostly associated with it being one of the only types of gambling that is not entirely under state control. They play a mixture of 75 and 90 ball bingo.
Wherever in the world you visit, you’re likely to find a game of bingo, whether it’s a game whilst you’re relaxing around the pool in Spain or a visit to one of the many bingo halls in America.
Rachael is a freelance writer with a particular interest in online gaming. As an enthusiastic online bingo roomie, Rachael enjoys writing about the history of the UK's favourite game as well as discovering the latest trends.
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