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Who invented Bingo?

It’s not just pasta, pizza and Pinot Grigio we have Italy to thank for! By the 1500s, a game of chance called lotto was already becoming popular with Italians, who are still avid fans of it today. From Italy it spread across Europe and eventually made it as far as North America, where it was called ‘Beano’.

So why do we say ‘Bingo’ when we win? In 1929 Edwin S. Lowe, a U.S. toy salesman, came across the game being played at a carnival in Georgia. Legend has it that he rechristened the game after a lucky contestant accidentally shouted ‘Bingo!’ instead of ‘Beano!’ in her excitement at winning. Lowe began to market game cards for his new game of ‘Bingo’ and the rest, as they say, is history!

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1930 to 1959: Eyes down in the trenches

Bingo, or ‘Housey-housey’ as it was called, was a popular game with British soldiers during the First World War and men returning from action were keen to play at home, both for amusement and for prizes. Although commercial bingo was still illegal in the 1930s, archives from the time show several prosecutions for bingo being played for cash or even food!

‘Housey-housey’ or ‘tombola’ were also big attractions at bazaars or fairs, as well as church-run charity fundraising events. The national popularity of bingo continued to rise as the game, increasingly called ‘Bingo’, became a fixture at holiday camps such as Butlins in the 1950s.

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1960: Full house

When the law changed in 1960 and the Betting and Gaming Act allowed commercial bingo to be played in clubs, bingo halls opened nationwide and demand went through the roof with glamorous prizes and celebrity callers such as Cilla Black and Tommy Steele.

Before long, bingo halls had become the social hub of communities across Britain. Old cinemas were converted by big companies like Mecca, and people flocked to the clubs to enjoy an evening of bingo with their friends. The halls offered refreshments and live entertainment as well as the thrill of a chance at the big jackpots and tables were crowded night after night.

1986 to 1999: Bingo nation

In 1986 the National Bingo Game started and became an instant hit, with bingo halls playing the same game up and down the country. The 90s saw a host of new out-of-town bingo venues spring up, attracting younger clientele with their large, modern spaces and locations. But by the end of the decade a new phenomenon was starting.

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2000 to 2014: The explosion of online bingo

Online bingo exploded onto the scene with the new millennium and its popularity has been growing ever since. The brilliant simplicity of Bingo, with its easy-to-learn rules and low stakes lends itself perfectly to a digital format. What’s more, you can play it from the comfort of your own home without any need to travel, organise childcare or be constrained by time. The great social atmosphere of the traditional bingo hall isn’t lost either with the introduction of in-game chat rooms and online bingo has become not just a fun hobby but also a great way to make new friends.

20XX  -  the future of bingo

So what next? With social media and mobile technology developing at lightning speed, the world of online bingo is growing every day. The variety of games is increasing too, with popular slots and instant win games being added to the sites’ repertoires. Most major sites now offer apps for smartphone and tablet games in addition to their websites and mobile bingo looks set to be massive as more and more players log on while on the move. From medieval Italy to the world of the internet in 2014, bingo is here to stay!

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