Bingo Has Been Around for Longer Than You Think

You may be familiar with the much-loved game of bingo – but do you know your facts about the pastime's origin?
By adfaassss_test|30th September 2022

Bingo Has Been Around for Longer Than You Think


Call us biased, but we love a game of bingo. With millions of people the game regularly across the United Kingdom – whether online or in a bingo hall – we know we're not the only ones.  We're a nation of bingo lovers!

And it's no surprise considering bingo's rich history in the UK. Did you know the lottery game has a hundred-year-plus history here? Before the days when online bingo reigned supreme, brick-and-mortar bingo halls could be found in nearly every town and city across the nation, from Blackpool to Brighton.

But what did the game of bingo look like before the bingo hall heydays? Evolving from a basic lottery game, believed to have started in Italy, bingo has undergone numerous makeovers across the centuries. But where did bingo originally come from, and how exactly did it start? Read on to find out more about the fascinating history of the game we love.  

Where was bingo invented?

Enjoyed by London slum dwellers, French Aristocrats, and American carnival goers alike, bingo is a game with a rather illustrious past! While we can't trace the roots of the game back to a single inventor, what we do know is that it originated in Italy around five centuries ago. Bingo has its origins in Italy, where it was originally a kind of national lottery created to help the Italian government raise funds. From there, the game is thought to have spread to France, where it was popular amongst the wealthiest members of society.

Over the course of the 18th-century bingo became more mainstream in France, gradually evolving to resemble something closer to the game most people are familiar with today. 'Le Lotto', as it was then called, featured 90 numbers and a grid layout, which inspired the modern design of the game.

While 'Le Lotto' was gaining notoriety in France, many lottery-style games were developing across the channel at the same time. These illegal games of chance were particularly popular with London’s slum-dwelling population. While we don’t know exactly when or how bingo was first conceptualised, the earliest report we have of the game cropping up on British soil dates back as far as 1716.

Who invented bingo?

By the late 19th and early 20th century, early versions of modern bingo were being enjoyed at fairs and carnivals both in the UK and throughout the United States. The game was first standardized in the 1920s by American actor Hugh J Ward, and by the 1940s, bingo in America was thriving. 

Bingo halls started springing up in Britain around the same time, in places like Blackpool, Brighton and London – some of which retain a reputation for bingo today! There are even reports of soldiers playing games similar to bingo during the First World War, with gambling games being a popular pastime for soldiers during much-needed downtime.  

Where is bingo most popular?

Bingo truly had its heyday in Britain in the 1960s and 70s. By then, there were thousands of bingo halls dotted up and down the country, and it had come to be thought of as a quintessentially British game. 

Unsurprisingly, bingo has continued to be a mainstay of British culture, and with millions of Brits playing each day, the UK currently leads the global bingo market. The game has also remained a big hit in Italy, with the amount being wagered nationally growing year after year. In recent decades, however, bingo has taken off around the globe! 

After the legalisation of bingo halls in Brazil in 1993, the game has seen a huge surge in popularity throughout South America. Bingo is gaining momentum in Japan, too, with the 75-ball version of the game cementing itself as a firm favourite.  

Where did the name 'bingo' come from?

Bingo has been called many different names over the course of its long history – the French knew it as 'Le Lotto', while it was nicknamed Beano in America. But how did the name 'bingo' first come about? The answer is… no one knows for sure! 

In the early 20th century, an American version of the game saw players mark numbers off their cards with beans, hence earning itself the name 'beano'. It is thought that the term bingo could have evolved from this, with one theory stating that a particularly over-excited player accidentally called out 'bingo' instead of 'beano' when they won the game.

For bingo's official rebranding, however, we can thank New York toy salesman Edwin S Lowe, who saw the potential in the game and developed over 6000 unique bingo cards in just one year. He firmly established the game of chance as 'bingo', and from there on out, that's how it was known.  

How popular is online bingo?

It probably won't surprise anyone to learn that bingo has seen a huge shift in culture over the past few decades. The number of brick-and-mortar bingo halls has dwindled, but there is an ever-increasing online community of bingo lovers worldwide. Overall, more than a whopping 100 million people play online bingo, all thanks to the growing online gaming industry. 

Here at Jackpotjoy, bingo fans from all over can connect with each other via our sociable chat rooms. Our members love the sense of community our gaming platform provides, and they chat with each other about anything and everything – from top bingo tips to their favourite TV shows! 

When you play bingo online, you’re not limited by time and space, either. There’s a game to play almost any time of day, and thanks to our mobile bingo app our players can easily log in for a game on their commute, before the school run, or last thing at night to wind down.  

A look to the future

Bingo has evolved massively over the last five centuries to become the game we know today. It certainly still has a place in our hearts after all those years, and with the online bingo community thriving, the history of the game is still being written. 

Here at Jackpotjoy, we're big on sharing the bingo action, having launched as a dedicated online bingo site back in the early 2000s. Now, we're celebrating our twentieth year of online fun, which is testimony to bingo's sticking power! 

Find more bingo facts and tips over on our Jackpotjoy blog.