There is a saying that “Italians do it better…and first!” and when it comes to bingo, indeed, Italians do know better, because bingo is a direct descendant of an Italian lottery game. Already in the 1530s, in the very heart of the Renaissance era, a game called Lo giuoco del lotto was widespread around palaces and courts.
At the end of the 1700s the game arrived to France with the name Le Lotto, quickly becoming the most favorite amusement of the French aristocracy. It is here that the playing cards received the design that we see today: blank squares and numbers randomly arranged in a grid of three rows and nine columns.
A century later even the Germans fancied the game. Mind you, not for amusement purposes, but for educational ones instead: it was used to teach children the multiplication table and to train their memory!
But how did lotto become bingo after all?
The name bingo is related to the story of Edwin S. Lowe, a New York toy salesman, who on one of his trips to Georgia, came across a game called Beano that was played at a country carnival. This strange name derives from the English word bean. According to the rules of the game, the numbers of the playing cards, once called, were covered with dried beans. This went on until someone filled a line of numbers on their card – either verically, horizontally or diagonally. The completion of the line was marked by the shout of the word ”Beano!”.
Returning home to New York, Lowe organised the very game he saw at the carnival to his friends and one of the women whose line was completed eagerly uttered ”Bingo!” instead of ”Beano!”. This new name appealed to Lowe and he went on organising the game under this name.
And this is how bingo was born in the form that we all know it today: a mispronounced word, perfect timing and a good marketing plan!
Despite being considered a game of hazard, bingo has always been regarded as a very popular game, never receiving negative comments.