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How did bingo come to the UK?

Bingo as we know it today appeared in the UK during the early 1800s, but the game's origins are thought to date back even further. Discover how this national staple came about and evolved into the pastime that would take the country by storm in the 20th century.

The origins of bingo

A national lottery started in 1530 in Italy is thought to be where bingo began. 'Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia' was a government initiative introduced to help fund public projects such as building schools and essential infrastructure. Participants would be given 3 x 9 cards with numbered squares, similar to the current bingo boards, with winning numbers drawn randomly.

In the late 1700s, this idea moved to France, shortened simply to 'Le Lotto'. The pastime proved popular with wealthy Frenchmen including the aristocracy and became increasingly well-known across Europe.

US development

Over the years, the format of the lottery was replicated privately, eventually becoming a popular pastime across all classes. In 1929, a simplistic form of bingo was discovered at a travelling carnival by Edwin Lowe, a New York toy salesman who recognised its commercial value. In the version he saw, players were using beans to mark their numbers, leading to the game being rebranded as 'beano' in the US.

Wondering how 'bingo' got its name? According to legend, during a game one of Lowe's guests cried out 'bingo!' in excitement instead of the traditional 'beano!', and the new name stuck.

Emergence in the UK

With travelling fairs moving back and forth between the US and Europe, it wasn't long before Bingo came back across the pond and UK residents realised it was remarkably similar to their game known as 'Housey-Housey'.

Taking on the more fashionable US name, bingo soon spread through the working men's clubs and into dedicated community spaces that became known as bingo halls. By the 60s and 70s, there were thousands of bingo halls up and down the country, in towns as well as cities.

Bingo today

While bingo halls still exist, today most people prefer to play online via dedicated platforms or on bingo apps suitable for smartphones which enable gaming on the go. You can choose between the traditional 90-ball format or other versions such as the American 75-ball bingo where lines can be won vertically and diagonally as well as across.

Look for platforms with a licence from the Gambling Commission for the peace of mind that their practices are compliant with UK law. You should also check that your personal information such as payment details will be protected through measures such as encryption and chatroom monitoring.

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